Aug 9, 2022 - World

How the failure to cap insulin prices impacts Latinos

Illustration of a syringe pulling from a vial with a hundred dollar bill as a label.
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Failure to include a monthly $35 insulin cap in the climate and health care bill that passed the Senate last weekend could especially affect Latinos.

The big picture: CDC data shows Latinos are 70% more likely than their white non-Hispanic peers to be diagnosed with diabetes.

  • Risk factors for developing Type 2 diabetes include lack of exercise and an unhealthy diet, a struggle for many Latinos because of economic factors.
  • Complications due to diabetes also hit Latinos harder, with higher rates of vision loss and of kidney failure, studies show.
  • Latinos are 1.3 times more likely to die of diabetes complications due to the illness than white non-Hispanics, according to national statistics.

What's happening: Insulin, a key to treating diabetes, has doubled in cost in the past few years, making it especially unattainable for people of color, who have lower rates of health insurance.

  • About 14% of people who need insulin injections to control their blood sugar levels spend “catastrophic” amounts of their income (defined as using more than 40% of their family income post essentials like food and shelter), according to a study published last month.

Driving the news: Seven Republicans voted with Democrats to keep the insulin cap in the bill, but that was not enough to overcome the 60-vote threshold, Axios' Sophia Cai reports.

  • The Republicans who voted against the cap argued the provision violated the rules of reconciliation after the Senate parliamentarian ruled that it is not primarily related to the federal budget.

What they’re saying: The insulin price cap would've “had a tremendous impact in the Latinx community,” said Yadira Sanchez, executive director for Poder Latinx, an organization that builds Latino political power in Arizona, Florida and Georgia.

  • “For us this was very personal... this meant a lot for our families,” Sanchez said.
  • “We need more legislation that really caps those costs to our families especially as inflation is hitting our families extra hard,” she said.

U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas), whose grandmother died from diabetes complications and whose mother also struggles with the disease, said the high cost of insulin is " fundamentally a health equity issue."

  • "This isn’t a partisan issue, and it’s shameful that Republican senators are more focused on protecting Big Pharma’s profits than helping diabetics stay alive,” Castro said.

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