The House of Representatives voted Thursday to approve legislation that would limit cost-sharing for insulin under private health insurance and Medicare. The vote was 232-193, with 12 Republican members joining their Democratic colleagues to pass the measure.
The Affordable Insulin Now Act would cap insulin prices at either $35 a month or 25% of an insurance plan's negotiated price — whichever is lower. The legislation aims to take effect in 2023 but its fate in the Senate remains unclear.
"This is a kitchen table issue, "House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said to reporters ahead of the bill's passage on Thursday.
"One in four Americans is forced to skip or ration doses of insulin and that's life-threatening," she said, noting the legislation "paves the way" for further action on negotiating lower drug prices beyond insulin.
Advocates of the legislation point to data from the Health Care Cost Institute, an independent nonprofit that studies health care prices, which shows prices for insulin doubled between 2012 and 2016.
"No one should have to choose between taking their medication as prescribed and putting food on the table or a roof over their head," said Rep. Dan Kildee, one of three Democratic lawmakers who sponsored the legislation.
"As a father of a type 1 diabetic, I have seen firsthand how the high price of prescription drugs like insulin can harm patients and harm families," the Michigan Democrat said during debate on the House floor. "When my daughter turned 26 and got her own health insurance, there were months where she spent a third of her take home pay because she's diabetic on staying alive."
Critics of the bill argue the cap alone doesn't do enough to solve the underlying problem of rising prescription drug prices.
"We want lower prices for drugs, particularly for insulin," said Rep. Buddy Carter, R-Ga, during debate. "But instead of fixing a broken system, this bill aims to control it," he adding, calling the bill a "socialist plan."
House Democrats passed legislation in November as part of a broader spending package that would have enabled Medicare to negotiate lower prices for various prescription drugs.
Because that package remains stalled in the Senate, Democrats are working to more narrowly tackle making common drugs like insulin more affordable.
There is a similar bipartisan effort under way in the Senate but its path is unclear as Republicans have traditionally been opposed to price caps.