Nationwide, senior citizens on Medicare won’t have to pay more than $35 a month for their insulin, a new law taking effect this week after President Joe Biden signed it last year.
But that’s little comfort for the many younger Iowans and those with private insurance who rely on insulin, and who aren’t on Medicare.
Everyone could have benefited from the $35 cap if Republicans, including Iowa Sens. Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst, hadn’t blocked the language from being included in the Inflation Reduction Act, which passed on party lines in the Senate last August.
They then voted against the whole bill.
For years, Grassley has said he’s in favor of capping insulin prices, but when he had the opportunity to do it, he voted against them instead.
“This is a reckless tax and spending bill,” he said at the time. “I oppose the partisan bill because it’s a long list of reckless tax increases and spending.”
Ernst said the bill was reckless at a time of high inflation.
Instead, Grassley and Ernst voted for a Republican-introduced amendment that would have also expanded the cap to some people with private insurance, but the complicated formula they used wouldn’t have included everyone. Because of the amendment’s shortcomings, there was no chance it would pass the Democratic-majority Senate.
Seven Republicans did join Democrats to vote for the $35 price cap on insulin for private insurers and that brought the total to 57, just three votes away from the necessary 60. Grassley and Ernst might not have changed the outcome themselves, but they would have brought it within one vote.
Shortly after the vote, Grassley was asked at a town hall in Wayne County why he voted against the language. Grassley said without other reforms, the costs would just get passed off somewhere else, but attendees were unconvinced.
A month’s supply of insulin is now capped at $35 for anyone on Medicare.
— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) January 4, 2023
According to 2019 data from the Centers for Disease Control, 21 million American diabetics are under the age of 65. Generally, estimates put the cost of insulin a little under $100, much higher than in other countries.
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.
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