Healthcare

Schumer says he supports bipartisan talks on bill to lower insulin costs

Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (D-Calif.) addresses reporters during his weekly on-camera press conference on Tuesday, March 22, 2022.
Greg Nash

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Tuesday that he supports bipartisan talks on a bill aimed at lowering insulin costs for patients and that the measure could soon get a vote on the Senate floor.  

Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) are leading the talks.  

“This, being bipartisan, has a good chance of passing,” Schumer told reporters on Tuesday. “The effort has my support. Over the next few weeks those offices will work on getting that bill finalized and I intend to put that bill on the floor as soon as possible after Easter recess.” 

Democrats had previously touted a bill from Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) to cap patients’ out-of-pocket insulin costs at $35 per month.  

Collins and Shaheen, though, had their own bill aimed at insulin costs that they introduced in 2019, and they are currently working on updating that measure for reintroduction.  

Schumer on Tuesday gave his support to that bipartisan effort, saying that it could be combined with Warnock’s measure.  

“There’s now a bipartisan effort underway led by Sen. Collins and Sen. Shaheen to pair the $35 cap sponsored by Sen. Warnock with additional policies to drive down the list price in a more comprehensive way, including having the uninsured protected,” Schumer said.  

It remains unclear if any insulin legislation can gain the 10 Republican votes needed to advance in the Senate.  

Senate GOP aides had said that the Warnock bill as it currently stands was seen as partisan and was not expected to gain much, if any, Republican support.  

Giving time for the talks with Collins to continue could improve the chances of getting some Republican support.  

However, Warnock is facing a competitive reelection race this year, and lawmakers are often reluctant to give victories to lawmakers in the opposing party who are up for reelection.  

It is unclear what exactly the Collins-Shaheen measure would look like. Their 2019 bill would have eliminated the discounts that drug companies pay to negotiators known as pharmacy benefit managers if the drug company lowered the overall price of insulin back to 2006 levels.  

The Warnock bill caps insulin costs for patients at $35 per month. It does not lower the overall price of insulin, though, in effect shifting more of the cost onto insurers.   

Democrats proposed broader drug pricing measures, including allowing for limited Medicare negotiation of drug prices, as part of their sweeping Build Back Better agenda. But with the Build Back Better package stalled in the face of objections from Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Democrats are taking out a narrower insulin-focused measure for a potential standalone vote.  

Tags Chuck Schumer Jeanne Shaheen Joe Manchin Raphael Warnock Susan Collins

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