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Senators unveil a bipartisan plan to curb insulin prices

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Top senators plan to unveil a bipartisan bill Wednesday that aims to curb the high cost of insulin, a life-saving drug that some Americans are struggling to pay as drug prices skyrocket.

Sense. The legislation of Jean Shaheen (DN.H.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) is the result of months of work to compromise. But in a room where narrow margins and election-year tensions make the legal structure difficult to articulate, the bill still faces intimidating political contradictions.

“This legislation is the result of good faith negotiations and inputs from lawmakers, lawyers and experts,” Shaheen and Collins said in a joint statement. “It is imperative for Congress to act quickly, which is why we are calling on the Senate leadership to bring our legislation to the ground as soon as possible.”

The bill places a $ 35 monthly limit on the cost of insulin for patients with private insurance and those enrolled in Medicare, although it does not cover the same for the uninsured. The bill seeks to make insulin more accessible by breaking the requirements of a previous authority that forces patients to jump through barriers to get insurers to help pay for drugs.

The legislation aims to reduce the overall cost of insulin, not just how much patients pay for it. Senators have targeted drug companies’ concessions to insurers and intermediaries, who are accused of increasing the cost of drugs at the point of sale.

Months before Collins and Shaheen finalized their bill, Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schneider. Schumer (DN.Y.) promised to bring the proposal to the floor for a vote.

But even if the bill is to win every Democratic vote, it still needs the support of 10 Republicans, a limit that some bills can meet. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Meanwhile, has said little about the issue in recent months. And the proposal extends beyond the House’s insulin price cap in March, with only a dozen Republicans supporting that measure.

Shaheen and Collins have previously drafted a bill in 2019 aimed at reducing insulin costs. But he began work to make another compromise and build support for the legislation this spring. With the draft in hand, the bipartisan pair began circulating letters in April in pursuit of 60 total votes, their latest gambit in their quest to reduce insulin prices that have spanned decades.

In an interview at the time, Collins sounded optimistic about its future, emphasizing that his efforts to provide financial relief for diabetic patients “go beyond politics.”

“I can tell you there is a lot of interest on both sides of the aisle in this bill,” he said.

Shaheen similarly assured that the interim elections that will decide the composition of the Congress next year will not hinder his efforts to build bipartisan support.

“This is not about winning Democrats or Republicans.

The legislation has received praise from some of the leading diabetes advocacy groups, such as the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF), a funding agency for type 1 diabetes research.

“If we take steps to increase access to affordable insulin through this law, it will help people with diabetes, it will help reduce hospitalization and kidney disease, cost the health care system and our government a lot. Money, ”said Cynthia Rice, JDRF Chief Mission Strategy Officer.

House House Republicans, however, opposed the $ 35 price limit, raising the specter of the price setting, arguing it could harm research efforts. It can forecast obstacles in the Senate.

“I’d like to see a bill before I make a decision about it, but generally I don’t support price controls,” Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) Told The Washington Post this month. “I support things that encourage competition and competition.”

Adding to the complexity, Democrats have not given up on extensive prescription-drug pricing revisions as part of a more comprehensive financial spending package. That idea, along with the insulin price limit, is the defining factor of a roughly $ 2 trillion plan known as Build Back Better, which the party legislators finally passed on their own last year. Joe Manchin III (DW.Va) dropped out amid opposition. .).

But negotiations have intensified in recent weeks, as Democrats are looking to save their economic agenda with the election just months away. Republicans have unanimously rejected that spending package, arguing that the Democratic plan – which allows Medicare to negotiate costs on behalf of patients – may limit treatments.

Since last year, President Biden has repeatedly capitalized on the politically popular idea of ​​curbing the high cost of insulin in urging congressional Democrats to send an economic package to his desk. On Monday, he was optimistic about the possibility of the party’s signature drug pricing plan being approved.

“I think we should be able to get a change in Medicare and a reduction in the cost of insulin,” Biden said.

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