Chuck Grassley Blocks Effort To Cap Insulin Prices For Many Iowans

In a country where insulin costs an average of almost $99, Sen. Chuck Grassley voted against a piece of legislation that would cap the price of insulin at $35 a month for those who have private insurance.

Grassley’s vote—along with the majority of his Republican colleagues—meant the language wasn’t included in the broader Inflation Reduction Act, which passed the Senate along party lines on Sunday.

The bill still includes the $35 price cap for Medicare patients, but Senate rules—and 43 Republicans refusing to bypass them—blocked the private insurance cap.

More than 230,000 Iowans have diabetes and rely on insulin for their health. Because of the high costs, many people ration their insulin by taking less than is required to try to make it last longer. Rationing can have severe health effects though, such as diabetic ketoacidosis which happens when a person’s blood sugar is too high, and can lead to death.

Others seriously consider traveling to Canada to get cheaper insulin. According to a 2020 report, the average price of insulin in Canada is $12 according to information from 2018.

Grassley’s vote doesn’t line up with what he’s said in the past, either. For a long time, he’s said insulin prices are too high and has advocated for drug price reforms. He’s worked on legislation for it, the Prescription Drug Pricing Reduction Act, alongside Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), which would change the way drug pricing works under Medicare and Medicaid.

That includes insulin prices.

In 2019, Grassley co-wrote an opinion piece for the Washington Times criticizing the way prescription drug pricing works.

Because of the broader Inflation Reduction Act, Grassley said he couldn’t vote for the price cap to be included, and he insisted on the floor that the chamber take up his bill instead, which he said was a better option.

“This is a reckless tax and spending bill,” he said. “I oppose the partisan bill because it’s a long list of reckless tax increases and spending.”

Grassley did vote for a Republican-proposed amendment to discount insulin, but it was rejected by Democrats because they said it doesn’t go far enough.

Seven Republicans—who also voted for the Republican amendment—still joined Democrats to vote for the $35 price cap for private insurers, bringing the total to 57, just short of the necessary 60 votes.

“Sen. Grassley can talk all he wants about lowering drug prices, but what he actually does in Washington—from writing the bill to ban Medicare from negotiating for lower prices to now voting against capping the cost of insulin at $35 a month—shows that what he actually cares about is protecting the profits of his drug industry donors,” said Julie Stauch, the campaign manager for Michael Franken, who is running against Grassley.

Sen. Joni Ernst, who is not up for reelection this year, also voted against the $35 insulin price cap.

The Inflation Reduction Act includes several measures to reduce prescription drug prices, tackle climate change by investing in the infrastructure necessary to support clean energy, and increase corporate taxes.

With the Inflation Reduction Act through the Senate, it now moves to the House of Representatives where it’s expected to pass, and the vote is expected to take place later this week.

 

Nikoel Hytrek
08/08/22

Have a story idea or something I should know? Email me at nikoel@iowastartingline.com. You can also DM me on Twitter at @n_hytrek

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