Healthcare

Shaheen says she has ‘agreement in principle’ with Collins on bill to lower insulin costs

Greg Nash

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) said Tuesday that she has an “agreement in principle” with Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) on legislation aimed at lowering the cost of insulin.  

Shaheen and Collins have been in bipartisan talks on the issue, and Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) last week gave his support to the discussions, saying that he hopes to hold a vote in the Senate soon after the Easter recess.  

Shaheen’s comments are a sign of progress, though she noted that there is not yet finalized legislative text.  

Asked about Shaheen’s “agreement in principle” comment on Tuesday, Collins replied optimistically.

“We’ve been working very well together, and our staffs have been working hard, so I think we have an outline of where we want to go,” Collins said.  

However, even if Shaheen and Collins finalize a deal, it will be a challenge to find the nine other Republicans needed for the bill to pass the Senate.  

The House will vote this week on its own insulin bill, intended to help spur action in the Senate. That bill will cap out-of-pocket costs for patients for insulin at $35 per month. The bill does not lower the overall price of insulin, in effect shifting more of the cost onto insurers.    

In a sign of Republican opposition, House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) told The Hill on Tuesday he is opposed to the House bill, calling it “government price fixing.” 

Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) is the sponsor of the Senate version of the $35 insulin cap, which Schumer last week said could be combined with the bill Shaheen and Collins come up with.  

Adding a political challenge, Warnock faces a competitive reelection race this year, and members of the opposing party tend to be reluctant to give wins to vulnerable lawmakers in the other party.  

The Collins-Shaheen bill is intended to be broader than Warnock’s $35 cap and to help lower the underlying cost of insulin.  

While the exact details are not clear, Shaheen said the measure “builds on” legislation that the pair introduced in 2019. That bill would eliminate 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.   

Democrats have long pushed for broader legislation to lower drug prices and included in their sweeping Build Back Better package a measure to allow Medicare to negotiate lower drug prices in some instances. However, with that package stalled due to concerns from Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Democrats are turning to narrower insulin legislation in the meantime, highlighting an issue popular with voters.  

Asked if she thinks Republicans beyond Collins would support the insulin bill, Shaheen replied, “We hope so.”

Tags Charles Schumer Chuck Schumer Jeanne Shaheen Joe Manchin Raphael Warnock Steve Scalise Susan Collins

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