Giving light to the insulin crisis
© Getty Images

Ella Baker told us: “Give light, and the people will find a way.”

This Diabetes Awareness Month, we must shine a bright spotlight on the state of the insulin crisis and find our way. Nearly 100 years ago, insulin was first used to treat diabetes. Now, we consider it a perfectly manageable autoimmune disease given access to proper care and affordable medication. Yet, one in four people with diabetes is forced to ration insulin — too often, fatally — because costs continue to skyrocket and hardworking Americans have been priced out.

I am a type 2 diabetic, myself. I know just how taxing diabetes is — mentally, physically, and of course, financially. Countless members of my family have been impacted by this disease, including my mother who lived to be 90 years old but succumbed to complications of renal failure, my late brother who had to have a toe removed, one of my cousins who lost both of her kidneys and relies on dialysis, and an uncle who had to have his legs amputated. For so many, access to insulin, affordable care, and diabetes management therapies are the difference between life and death.


Those of us who are privileged enough to be elected into public office have the moral imperative to hold the entire prescription drug industry accountable for making insulin affordable for those who need it. And, current and former drug corporation executives like current Health & Human Services Secretary Alex Azar are tasked with the moral imperative of prioritizing the value of human life over their paychecks and stock prices.

The fact of the matter is: The insulin crisis exists because powerbrokers prioritize profit over people’s lives.

Fortunately, the solutions to the insulin crisis are right in front of us — all we have to do is join together and work toward it. There are many paths forward to insulin justice before my fellow members of Congress, and the time to act on these options is now.

One particular path forward is of utmost importance and offers immense impact: as my colleagues in Congress already know, Medicare is one of the largest purchasers of prescription drugs in America. The problem is that for the last 16 years, Medicare has been intentionally restricted by Congress from negotiating lower drug prices for lifesaving medications — like insulin — on behalf of the American public.

Only Congress can grant Medicare the power to negotiate directly with drug corporations to begin lowering drug prices for each and every person we represent. I, and many of my colleagues, stand ready to fight for this change. Under Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiDemocratic senator to party: 'A little message discipline wouldn't kill us' Overnight Health Care: New wave of COVID-19 cases builds in US | Florida to lift all coronavirus restrictions on restaurants, bars | Trump stirs questions with 0 drug coupon plan Overnight Defense: Appeals court revives House lawsuit against military funding for border wall | Dems push for limits on transferring military gear to police | Lawmakers ask for IG probe into Pentagon's use of COVID-19 funds MORE’s (D-Calif.) leadership, Democrats are moving forward with transformational legislation to give Medicare negotiating power: H.R. 3, the Lower Drug Costs Now Act, would level the playing field for American patients and save taxpayers $345 billion over six years.


However, we are facing entrenched political gridlock between elected officials who want to protect special interests versus those who are fighting to save their own constituents’ lives. Every day that we fail to act, costs Americans their lives, like Alec Smith, Jesimya David Scherer-Radcliff, Josh Wilkerson, Meaghan Carter, Antavia Lee Worsham — the list goes on. Even worse, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellDemocratic senator to party: 'A little message discipline wouldn't kill us' House to vote on resolution affirming peaceful transition of power Republican lawyers brush off Trump's election comments MORE (R-Ky.) has declared that any legislation my colleagues in the House bring forth to lower drug prices for the American people will be dead on arrival in the Senate. This is wrong and downright cruel.

To the members of Congress like Sen. McConnell who have yet to join me in this fight for survival: time is running out. We cannot afford to drag our feet any longer because every moment wasted is a moment of life stolen from the 30.3 million people in America with diabetes and 84 million on the cusp of diagnosis, living with prediabetes. Our constituents do not deserve to be “dead on arrival,” Sen. McConnell.

This Diabetes Awareness Month, I tip my hat and raise my torch to give light to the people who need affordable insulin. We have an opportunity and an obligation to prevent unnecessary deaths. The solutions to the insulin crisis are in the hands of Congress: we must find a way, for the people we represent. Let’s not waste another moment.

The Honorable Alma AdamsAlma Shealey AdamsCoronavirus Report: The Hill's Steve Clemons interviews Rep. Lauren Underwood Congresswoman accidentally tweets of death of Rep. John Lewis, who's still alive Help reverse devastating health disparities by supporting the Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act MORE is the representative for North Carolina’s 12th District to the United States House of Representatives.