Not all diabetics are on Medicare, and Congress needs to cap insulin prices for all Americans

For diabetics like me, insulin is as necessary as water, but too often it comes with an unaffordable price tag. 

As a result, as many as one in four of the seven million Americans dependent on insulin are skipping or skimping on doses, which can lead to severe complications, including death. Many of us ration doses because of Big Pharma’s outrageous price hikes. 

The cost of the four most popular types of insulin have tripled over the past decade, with the average price per month rising to $450 in 2016. 

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Thankfully, this January, Medicare started to cap the cost of insulin at $35 per month thanks to the Inflation Reduction Act. In September 2022, President Joe Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act into law to help seniors and working families stay healthy and have more financial breathing room. 

More than 3.2 million insulin users on Medicare Part D will pay no more than $35 per month for their insulin, regardless if a deductible has been met, vastly improving the lives of millions of older insulin users who don’t have a lot to spare. And Eli Lilly just announced that the company will begin to cap out of pocket costs at $35 per month this year for their older insulin products. 

This is serious progress, but we still have a long way to go. Working class younger and middle-aged Americans like me are still struggling to afford this life saving drug. I am fortunate to have insurance through my employer, but I still cannot afford the additional $1,000 per month out of pocket for the insulin I need. I happen to live in rural Arizona near the Mexico border, where I can easily access my medication for a fraction of what it costs at home. Not everyone is able to travel to Mexico (nor should anyone have to) and what are they supposed to do? They will ration or skip their insulin and most certainly will die. 

This price cap is a game-changer and will make health care more affordable and equitable for the American people. People of color are disproportionately affected by diabetes with over 12% of Black adults and 11.8% of Hispanics being diagnosed with the disease. Black Americans also continue to be the hardest hit when it comes to affording their prescription drugs and paying medical bills. 

In rural areas, diabetes risk factors are higher as they have less access to health care providers, fewer transportation options to receive care, and higher rates of being uninsured. 

In the wealthiest nation on earth, no one should have to risk their lives because they can’t afford their insulin. For too long, Big Pharma has pulled the strings and put profits over people. The Inflation Reduction Act is an important step forward to rein in Big Pharma’s greed, but I strongly urge Congress to take this legislation a step further and expand the $35 insulin cap to all Americans, not just Medicare recipients. 

Saving hardworking younger Americans like me hundreds of dollars would allow me to be able to put more towards other necessities like food and rent. Let’s expand on the incredible health care provisions included in the Inflation Reduction Act to ensure that Insulin is accessible and affordable to all Americans. 

Our lives depend on it.

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