President Joe Biden and congressional Democrats lost a battle for a popular provision in their health care and tax reform bill, the Inflation Reduction Act, during an extended overnight “Vote-a-Rama” session last night as Senate Republicans successfully jettisoned a $35 price cap on the cost of insulin for people with private health insurance from the bill.
With the Inflation Reduction Act being pushed to passage through the Senate’s complicated reconciliation procedure that allows bills to be passed with a simple 51-vote majority, the GOP was able to defeat the insulin price cap provision by a vote of 57-43 because the Senate parliamentarian ruled that it was not eligible to be considered under the reconciliation rules. The bill, therefore, needed 60 votes to pass under Senate filibuster rules.
The Republicans did not challenge the cap on insulin prices for senior diabetes patients who are insured through Medicare, but instead limited their cruel removal of the life-saving price cap to only those patients who are covered under private or work-provided health insurance.
As the price of insulin has skyrocketed in recent years, many people have been forced to ration doses with adverse effects on their health and make painful choices between buying medicine and paying for food and shelter.
Democrats want to enact price caps to eliminate price gouging by pharmaceutical companies and allow diabetes patients to afford to live normal lives without fear of being unable to afford the crucial medicine keeping them alive.
Republicans, on the other hand, seem more concerned about the profitability of Big Pharma than about the health of their constituents.
“Republicans have just gone on the record in favor of expensive insulin,” Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) exclaimed. “After years of tough talk about taking on insulin makers, Republicans have once against wilted in the face of heat from Big Pharma.”
With over 7 million Americans needing daily doses of the blood sugar-regulating drug, the rejection of the price cap will leave patients under considerable financial stress.
Fourteen percent of insulin users are currently forced to spend more than 40 percent of their post-food and housing cost income on the drug, according to a Yale University study.
Democratic senators quickly moved to make political hay out of the unconscionable rejection of the popular price cap on insulin.
“The only way it doesn’t pass is if folks on the other side of the aisle decide to block it,” stated Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-GA), a sponsor of earlier stand-alone price cap legislation.
“The cost of insulin isn’t just out of control, it is devastating people,” said Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) as she argued aginst the GOP efforts to strip the price cap from the bill. “This should not be a hard vote to cast.”
Apparently, it was a hard vote to pass for the vast majority of Republican senators, however.
Here’s a list of the offending parties:
Let’s hope that the American electorate remembers the callousness of their GOP elected officials in the November midterms and replaces them with candidates who actually care about the health of their constituents.
Original reporting by Evan Halper and Tony Romm at The Washington Post.