House passes bill to lower insulin costs, but prospects unclear in Senate

The House passes a healthcare bill that would cap out-of-pocket costs for insulin users at $35 a month.

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The House moved Thursday to revive one of the more popular provisions of last year’s failed social safety net package, passing a narrow healthcare bill that would dramatically lower out-of-pocket costs for insulin users.

The bill passed by a vote of 232 to 193, with 12 House Republicans joining all Democrats in support.

The measure would cap insulin costs at $35 a month for consumers enrolled in private health insurance plans or Medicare. Currently, based on the patient’s condition and choice of treatments, costs can range from $334 to $1,000 a month for insulin, according to a 2020 Kaiser Family Foundation report.


The House bill faces hurdles in the evenly split Senate, but Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) are hoping to drum up bipartisan support to address the issue.

This is Democrats’ first attempt at taking a less controversial piece of President Biden’s now-defunct “Build Back Better” package and offering it as a standalone bill.

Biden’s $1.75-trillion measure, which included sweeping reforms in healthcare and climate policy, stalled in December when Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia refused to endorse it, depriving Democrats of the votes they needed in a 50-50 Senate.

By spinning out slimmed-down pieces of the larger package, Democrats hope to score some legislative accomplishments ahead of the November midterm, but it remains to be seen whether enough Senate Republicans will go along.

Last month Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) introduced a bill similar to the one passed in the House on Thursday that would cap patients’ cost at $35 a month. But it has failed to draw Republican support.

Now eyes are on a bipartisan Shaheen-Collins bill, which would also home in on the issue of insulin. Its details have not been released yet.


“I think we have an outline of where we want to go,” Collins said.

Shaheen’s office said it has finalized an agreement “in principle” but not released final legislation.

About 34 million people in the United States have diabetes, many of whom require regular doses of the lifesaving medication.

But insulin prices over the last decade have doubled and even tripled, despite no significant advances in its efficacy, according to a 90-page report released last year by Sens. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).

Such costs only add to the nation’s overall healthcare spending. According to the American Diabetes Assn., diabetes and its complications account for $1 of every $7 spent on healthcare costs in the United States.

“I think [the legislation is] trying to get at the underlying reasons for the rise in the price of insulin, which has not changed in over 100 years, and yet, the pharmaceutical companies keep jacking up the price. So it’s an attempt to address that,” Shaheen told reporters this week.