Bipartisan Senate duo reignites efforts to cap private insurance insulin cost at $35 

A bipartisan Senate duo is working to reignite efforts to cap insulin costs for everyone with private insurance, not just Medicare.

The updated law introduced by Senators Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) and John Kennedy (R-La.) on Thursday will cap the price of insulin at $35 for everyone using private insurance, and will also extend that discount to who are not insured.

During a roundtable meeting with journalists, Warnock said he understood how diabetics could suffer if they couldn’t afford insulin.

The cost of insulin has skyrocketed in recent years, even though the drug itself has barely changed since it was first discovered more than a century ago.

“As a pastor who sits in the waiting room with his family and prays by his bed, I know the human cost of unmanaged diabetes,” Warnock said. “I have been there and prayed with people when they got the news that their loved one had to be amputated. So there is a financial cost and there is a human cost to all of this.”

Warnock said he intends for the bill to be paid in full, and that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (DN.Y.) is “on board” with his support.

The law will require private insurance plans to cover no more than $35 per month of insulin starting January 1, 2024. Unlike other bills aimed at lowering the cost of insulin, Warnock and Kennedy’s “Affordable Insulin Now Act” will also cover those who are not insured.

“By making preventative care more accessible, this bill will reduce long-term health care costs for individual patients, avoid severe complications from diabetes and take pressure off the rest of the health care system,” Kennedy said in a statement.

Provisions capping the cost of insulin to $35 for Medicare beneficiaries were included as part of the Reduced Inflation Act, but commercial insurance sections failed to win support from 60 senators to address filibusters.

But seven Senate Republicans voted to keep private insurance limits in the bill; Josh Hawley (Mo.), Susan Collins (Maine), Cindy Hyde-Smith (Miss), Kennedy, Bill Cassidy (La.), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and Dan Sullivan (Alaska).

Warnock said he was talking to them, but had yet to get their support.

Warnock and Kennedy’s bill isn’t the only congressional effort to tackle insulin costs.

Last year, Collins and Senator Jeanne Shaheen (DN.H.) spent months working on the $35 limit insulin bill that aims to lower the overall price rather than just what patients pay. But the law didn’t move forward, and senators say they plan to introduce it again soon.

Hawley also introduced a bill earlier this year capping the monthly price of insulin at $25 per month for those enrolled in private health programs and Medicare.

Most recently, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) unveiled a bill earlier this month that will limit the cost to as low as $20 per vial.

Three of the leading insulin manufacturers recently announced their own plans to lower the price of the drug, including Eli Lilly, and Warnock said he thinks that is the momentum that will help move the legislation forward.

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