Mar 31, 2022 - Health

Democrats hope for win on insulin price caps

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Congress is pressing ahead with plans to limit the cost of insulin to $35 a month — an effort that could be the closest Democrats get to making good on campaign pledges to rein in drug costs.

Why it matters: But while capping out-of-pocket costs for insulin might be a political winner in an election year, it could wind up costing the government billions in lost revenue and swelling the deficit.

Zoom in: Insulin is a tempting target. Per-unit U.S. prices for the life-saving medication in the U.S. are seven times those in comparable countries, per the Peterson-KFF Health System Tracker.

  • But legislation like a House bill from Rep. Angie Craig (D-Minn.) that'll be debated on the floor today wouldn't address the core problem of rising prices for insulin. It would instead shift more of the cost onto health insurers and employers and result in higher premiums, according to experts.

Go deeper: Congressional scorekeepers say the Craig plan would lead the government to lose almost $4.8 billion in revenue over a decade while spending would rise $6.6 billion over that period.

  • Yes, but: Craig's bill and similar measures proposed by Sens. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.), John Kennedy (R-La.) and others would still save money for people with diabetes and keep insured people from spending thousands of dollars.

Look ahead: Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chair Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Warnock plan to rally support for the $35 cap at a virtual event on Friday.

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