This comes as Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is vowing to put a bipartisan bill cooked up by Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Susan Collins (R-ME) on the floor “very soon” after the Senate returns to work next week. “There should be nothing remotely partisan about making sure Americans don’t go broke trying to manage their diabetes,” Schumer said. “At least one in four insulin users report rationing their use because they can’t afford it, putting their health and lives at risk in the process.”
But of course there’s something partisan there. Republicans don’t want to give Democrats a win. Since Collins was involved in this, you wouldn’t be wrong to smell a rat. Last winter, Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-GA) introduced a straightforward bill to cap insulin prices, requiring insurers to cap insulin costs to their customers at $35 a month. Warnock has made that legislation a big part of his reelection campaign, since he’s up this cycle. Republicans didn’t want to give him a political win, so enter Susan Collins and the usual “bipartisan” diverting ruse.
Entirely predictably, five of the Republicans most likely to help Collins get the 10 she needed to break a filibuster (were she really trying to get this passed) are raising objections over the bill, and demanding hearings. Republican Sens. Pat Toomey (PA), John Barrasso (WY), Steve Daines (MT), Rob Portman (OH), and Ben Sasse (NE), who all sit on the Senate Finance Committee, are opposing a vote before having hearings. Which means they wouldn’t vote for it on the floor without hearings (or probably even with them).
That’s not the worst thing: It’s also not a great bill. It sets up a complicated insurance process that would ultimately result in higher premium costs for people on private insurance as well as for Medicare, and would discourage future price competition among manufacturers.
The California answer is ultimately a better one: public manufacture and distribution of the life-saving drug. If a consortium of states—toss in Hawaii, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington, for example—could be created, then real competition that could drive costs down would exist.
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