The U.S. House took a big step toward saving seniors money on a life-saving drug. On Thursday, lawmakers voted to enact a $35 cap on the cost of insulin for “most Americans who depend on it,” according to the New York Times.  Some 25 percent of Americans 65 and older have diabetes, or about 12 million seniors. The World Health Organization projects that diabetes will be the seventh leading cause of death by 2030.

The National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare voiced support for the House bill, while at the same time urging action on more comprehensive prescription drug price reform.

“This legislation has the potential to save diabetics who are risking their lives by rationing insulin — and bring financial relief to everyone taking insulin but struggling to get by every month. While this bill will undoubtedly help consumers, it does not address the actual price of insulin or other outrageously overpriced medications.” – Max Richtman

There is little doubt that Americans urgently need relief from the soaring price of insulin, which can range in cost from $300 – $1,000 a month. We have heard many disturbing stories about patients who ration insulin because they can’t afford it, some of whom have died as a result. Others must choose between paying for insulin and other basic living expenses.

The House action comes after the stalling of President Biden’s Build Back Better agenda, which would have allowed Medicare to negotiate drug prices directly with Big Pharma. This remains the single most effective solution to out-of-control drug costs. The $35 insulin cap does not change the price of insulin, only the out-of-pocket cost to patients.

Some 25% of seniors (65+) have diabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control

Given the political realities on Capitol Hill, House Democrats enacted what they could for the time being.  As Politico reports, the insulin cap is “a policy Democrats hope will give them a concrete win to campaign on when they face voters in November as the rest of their health care agenda remains stymied.”

“At the end of the day, I hope that we can still bring forward a… bill with additional reforms this year. I know we need to do Medicare drug price negotiation… But we can’t wait any longer to act on insulin.” – Rep. Angie Craig (D-MN) in Politico, 3/31/22

Seniors’ advocates agree that Democrats must continue to attempt bolder action:

“Congress still must pass comprehensive drug pricing reform as soon as possible. That reform should empower Medicare to negotiate prices with drug makers, just like the VA does. Only then will consumers not only get much-needed price relief, but the Medicare program likely would save billions of dollars that could be used to expand benefits for seniors.” – Max Richtman

The House bill moves to the Senate, where the National Committee hopes it will be enhanced to include a mechanism to actually lower insulin prices.  Says NCPSSM President Max Richtman, “We welcome any meaningful steps toward the broader goal of prescription drug pricing reform.”