Update for Week Ending April 2, 2022

Update for Week Ending April 2, 2022

Bill to Lower Insulin Cost Passes House

Last week the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill that would cap the monthly cost of insulin at $35 for insured patients.

Experts say the legislation would provide significant relief for privately insured patients with skimpier plans and for Medicare enrollees facing rising out-of-pocket costs for their insulin. Some could save hundreds of dollars annually, and all insured patients would get the benefit of predictable monthly costs for insulin. The bill would not help the uninsured.

The bill now moves to the Senate but its fate there is very uncertain. For the legislation to pass, 10 Republican senators would have to vote in favor. Democrats acknowledge they do not have an answer for how that is going to happen.

The idea of a $35 monthly cost cap for insulin has a bipartisan pedigree. The Trump administration had created a voluntary option for Medicare enrollees to get insulin for $35, and the Biden administration continued it.

The good news is that Senators Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, and Democrat Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire are working on a bipartisan insulin bill. In addition, Georgia Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock has introduced legislation similar to the House bill, with the support of Sen. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York.

However, some Republicans complain that the insulin bill is only a small piece of a larger package around government price controls for prescription drugs and that the bill would raise premiums and fails to target pharmaceutical middlemen seen as contributing to high list prices for insulin.

About 37 million Americans have diabetes, and an estimated 6 million to 7 million use insulin to keep their blood sugars under control. It is an old drug, refined and improved over the years, which has seen relentless price increases.

TSCL supports any legislation that lowers Insulin prices, and we urge you to contact your Senators, especially if they are Republicans, and urge them to support legislation to lower insulin prices.

* * * *

New Covid information Site Announced

Last week the Biden Administration launched a new covid information website that is meant to be a one-stop shop for everything from free high-quality masks to antiviral pills.

The website, COVID.gov, follows through on a promise President Biden made in his State of the Union address. In that speech he announced a test-to-treat program "so people can get tested at a pharmacy, and if they're positive, receive antiviral pills on the spot at no cost."

The antiviral pills he referred to are highly effective at preventing hospitalization and death among people who are at high risk of severe disease from COVID infection. But they have to be taken within the first five days of the onset of symptoms. Up to now, there has been a disconnect between people getting diagnosed and actually getting these life-saving medications.

The site also offers:

  • A vaccine/booster locator
  • A form to order free at-home COVID tests (currently 8 maximum per household)
  • A CDC community risk level lookup
  • A testing locator
  • Information about where to get free high-quality masks
  • Information on COVID symptoms, treatment, testing and travel

Much of the information offered has been available in various other places but this site brings them all together in one place.

Having the information and supplies now is less about concerns today than about what happens six months from now if there is another COVID surge, like is happening now in Asia and Western Europe.

The COVID.gov website was designed to be as accessible and easy to use as possible. It is available in English, Spanish and a simplified Chinese, and the writing is purposely simple so the largest possible audience can understand and use the site. There is also a phone number for people who are not comfortable with the web.

If you would like to see the website but do not use or have access to a computer or the internet, we encourage you to ask a family member or friend if they can help you. Also, public libraries usually have computers available for public use and you can ask a librarian for help in accessing the site.

* * * *

Will New Covid Wave hit the U.S. Late This Year?

Just when it feels like we are starting to get back to normal we are being warned: the next wave of Covid-19 is coming, and in some parts of the United States, it is already here.

This time it is BA.2, a subvariant of the highly infectious Omicron variant. Nobody knows for sure how much havoc it will cause, but BA.2 has already led to a surge of cases in Europe and is now the dominant version of the coronavirus in the United States and around the world.

American health officials have said they are hopeful that BA.2 won’t cause another major surge, in part because so many people were infected by the original Omicron wave this winter and most likely have at least some natural or vaccine immunity to protect them against severe illness and hospitalization.

But other variables could turn the BA.2 wave into a more damaging surge. One concern is that less than 70 percent of Americans over 65 have had a first booster shot, leaving a large group vulnerable.

In addition, many people got their booster shots in the fall and their immune protection may be waning. Unvaccinated people who are counting on natural immunity from a previous infection by a different variant should know that BA.2 can easily sidestep those fading immune defenses.

Fortunately, while the virus is unpredictable, there are clear ways to protect yourself. Many of them are the same things we have had to do since the pandemic began.

Pay attention to Covid indicators in your community

Have high-quality masks on hand

While most Americans seem to have been using surgical masks it has been determined that they are not as safe as originally thought. Ideally, you should look for a reliable supply of N95, KN95 or KF94 masks. And be careful to avoid counterfeits.

Order home Covid tests sooner rather than later

Get a booster (when you are eligible)

Get a pulse oximeter

A pulse oximeter is a small device that clips on your finger and measures your blood oxygen levels. When levels drop to 92 or lower, patients should see a doctor. Low oxygen can be a sign of Covid pneumonia and may raise your risk for serious complications from Covid-19. The devices can be less reliable for people with darker skin, so pay attention to downward trends as well as the number.

Make a plan for antiviral drug treatment

Have backup plans for social events and travel

If you’re planning to travel, do a little advance research into clinics and pharmacies at your destination so you know whether you can get antiviral drugs if you catch Covid-19 on your trip. Make sure you have extra funds or plenty of room on your credit card in case you need to extend your trip to recover from Covid.

* * * *

As we continue dealing with the Covid 19 pandemic, TSCL remains constant in our fight for you to protect your Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid benefits. We’ve had to make some adjustments in the way we carry on our work, but we have not, and will not stop our work on your behalf.


For progress updates or for more information about these and other bills that would strengthen Social Security and Medicare programs, visit our website at www.SeniorsLeague.org or follow TSCL Facebook or on Twitter.