Democrats face GOP headwinds on insulin price caps

Democrats face GOP headwinds on insulin price caps

Vulnerable Democrats are pushing for insulin price caps

Democrats are pushing to reduce how much patients pay for the lifesaving drug insulin — a move that comes as the party’s broader drug pricing ambitions remain stalled on Capitol Hill.

But the key question is: Will these efforts actually become law, giving Democrats a victory to campaign on ahead of the midterms?

Late last week, the House passed a bill placing a $35 monthly cap on the cost of insulin for patients with private insurance or on Medicare.

Yet such a policy by itself faces head winds on the other side of the Capitol. The Senate is working on its own bipartisan insulin bill aimed at driving down the actual price of the medication while also capping its out-of-pocket cost. But there’s some skepticism off the Hill about whether such legislation—which hasn’t been introduced—could garner enough Republican votes to pass.

Setting the policy aside, Democrats appear to believe the insulin blitz is good politics. The party’s most vulnerable members are front and center in the effort to reduce the cost of a critical drug some patients have reportedly had to ration. For instance: Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) is leading the charge to cap the cost of insulin in the Senate. And Rep. Angie Craig (D-Minn.) introduced the House-passed version.

  • “I think what happened [Thursday] is a reflection of the political power of the issue,” said David Mitchell, the founder of Patients for Affordable Drugs Now, an advocacy group. “The amount of coverage that that vote got in the House is stunning.” (News outlets writing about the vote included the New York Times, the Associated Press, Politico, NPR, NBC and more.)

The politics are pretty clear here. Now let’s walk through the effort’s prospects.

In the House… the chamber passed the bill curbing how much patients with Medicare or private insurance spend on insulin per month in a 232-to-193 vote, with a dozen Republicans supporting the measure.

  • The GOP argument: “By just price setting, I’m concerned about what this does for diabetes research going forward,” Rep. Brett Guthrie (Ky.), the top Republican on the House Energy and Commerce health subcommittee, told The Health 202.
  • Cue the attack ads: “If my colleagues on the other side of the aisle want to vote against something that the American people 100 percent want us to address, so be it,” Craig said in an interview Wednesday. “That’s their issue, and they’ll have to answer for that.”

Per a senior House Democratic aide, the House-passed bill should be seen as an effort to galvanize attention and progress on the Senate’s bipartisan insulin talks, and not viewed as a rival bill.

That brings us to the Senate … where Sense. Jeanne Shaheen (DN.H.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) are crafting a broader insulin bill. That measure will also include legislation from Warnock to place a $35 cap on the cost of insulin for many patients.

  • Shaheen and Collins have “finalized an agreement in principle,” a spokesperson for Shaheen confirmed, but the two haven’t released legislative text.
  • Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (DN.Y.) has said he intends to put their bill on the floor after Easter recess.

Yet, the legislation would need the support of at least 10 Republicans to clear the chamber. There’s a huge question mark over whether that will be possible. As Mitchell put it, “We don’t know where those 10 votes are.”

Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.):

Remember Build Back Better? In the fall, Democrats clinched a compromise on a more comprehensive drug pricing bill between warring factions of its own party. The legislation included the $35 monthly out-of-pocket cap, but also other sweeping provisions, such as allowing Medicare to negotiate the price of medicines — a process which would apply to all insulin products.

Democrats’ economic package has been languishing on Capitol Hill for months. But if it does get revived, the drug pricing policies would likely be included, particularly since they have the support of Sen. Joe Manchin (DW.Va.).

However, health-care lobbyists expect Republicans would challenge whether the $35 cap for those with private insurance complies with the procedural rules Democrats would use to pass such a package. That could ultimately mean part of the policy to lower patients’ insulin costs gets focused — unless it passes through one of the two efforts detailed above.

Some Democrats are talking about abortion — but without saying the word

Abortion rights groups are pressing some Democratic lawmakers to fully embrace the word “abortion” over more coded language as they seek to mobilize voters ahead of a Supreme Court decision that could overturn Roe v. wadeour colleague Caroline Kitchener reports.

Behind the language: Democrats facing competitive races in 2022 and 2024 — including President Biden have rarely used the word “abortion.” Instead, they’ve relied on terms like “reproductive freedom” and “a constitutional right.”

  • Biden has included the word in three public statements and one tweet, but hasn’t said it in public as president.

This decision is strategic, as some lawmakers home in on what unites voters on the issue — “freedom” over control, “personal decisions” over limitations, said Celinda Lakeone of Biden’s lead pollsters in 2020. But abortion rights groups argue not explicitly using the term could backfire.

  • Voters want to know where their lawmakers stand,” said Mini Timmarajupresident of NARAL Pro-Choice America. “Using euphemisms can fuel stigma and being direct about support for abortion rights is not only the right thing to do, but also politically advantageous.”

The groups have an unlikely ally in their calls for Biden and other Democrats to use the word. Antiabortion groups have long called for abortion rights supporters to use the word itself rather than emphasizing “choice,” which they say is an attempt to divert attention from the procedure itself.

Loose guidelines lead to confusion over the second booster

Federal health officials said last week that some older Americans can receive a second coronavirus booster, but their decision to stop short of recommending the shot has left many confused about whether and when they should get one, The Post’s Yasmeen Abutaleb and Lena H.Sun report.

Physicians report being inundated with questions about the booster. Scant guidance and little advanced notice from federal agencies have left doctors unprepared and confused by the policy shift, some say.

  • “It does feel like we’re a little bit of an afterthought,” Kavita Patel, a primary care doctor at a community health center, said of health-care workers. “We’re understaffed, under-resourced, and we’re being asked to exert clinical nuance when we don’t have the tools to do it.”

But some experts said federal officials were right to allow the option of a second booster for those 50 and over, as cases rise in some areas as the prevalence of the transmissible BA.2 subvariant grows.

  • Adults 65 or older, or anyone 50 and older with underlying medical conditions, are most likely to benefit from the shot, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  • Americans who received the Johnson & Johnson initial shot and booster are also authorized to receive a second mRNA booster from either Pfizer-BioNTech gold Moderna.

Long covid patients are changing the way scientists do research

Long covid patients are revolutionizing the way scientists study a wide variety of conditions by employing a new “all-hands-on-deck” approach to medical research that prioritizes patient’s experiential knowledge and input, The Post’s Frances Stead Sellers reports.

Patient advocacy groups are collaborating with scientists to improve research targeted at treating long covid by documenting their symptoms online in real time and coming up with questions and strategies for surveys.

Scientists told Frances now that research is moving at “warp speed,” they don’t want to go back. But some physicians and patient advocates expressed frustration over federal agencies, like the National Institutes of Health, that continue to use traditional data collection and research methods that take years to produce results amid a worldwide health emergency.

Diana Zicklin Berrent, founder of Survivor Corps

  • The House passed legislation Friday to decriminalize marijuana national, but it’s unclear whether the measure will receive a vote in the Senate, our colleagues Felicia Sonmez and Mike DeBonis report.
  • The coronavirus is more likely to cause heart problems like myocarditis in teenage boys and young men than the vaccineaccording to a CDC study that directly compared the two.
  • On tap Tuesday: Former President barack obama will return to the White House for the first time since he left office to promote the Affordable Care Act in an event with Biden. NBC News first reported the event. Biden will take additional action to “save families hundreds of dollars a month,” per the White House’s weekly guidance.

👀 Here’s one thing we’re watching:

It’s a busy week in Congress. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra will defend his agency’s fiscal year 2023 budget before three committees. We’ll also be keeping our eye on the Supreme Court appointment of Ketanji Brown Jackson, who is on track to be confirmed by the end of this week.

Also on Wednesday: The FDA’s outside advisory committee will meet to discuss considerations for booster doses.

Thanks for reading! See y’all tomorrow.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.