The Hill

Bipartisan Senate duo reignites efforts to cap private insurance insulin cost at $35 

By Nathaniel Weixel

A bipartisan Senate duo is working to reignite efforts to cap the cost of insulin for everyone with private insurance, rather than just Medicare. 

Updated legislation introduced by Sens. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) and John Kennedy (R-La.) on Thursday would cap the price of insulin at $35 for everyone on private insurance, and would also extend that discount to the uninsured. 

During a roundtable with reporters, Warnock said he understands how people with diabetes can suffer if they can’t afford insulin.

The cost of insulin has skyrocketed in recent years, even as the drug itself has remained virtually unchanged from when it was first discovered more than a century ago.

“As a pastor who has sat in waiting rooms with families and prayed at bedsides, I know the human costs of unmanaged diabetes,” Warnock said. “I’ve been there and prayed with people when they got the news that their loved one has to get an amputation. So there is the financial cost and there’s the human cost of all of this.”

Warnock said he intends for the bill to be fully paid for, and that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) is “all in” with his support. 

The legislation would require private insurance plans to cover insulin for no more than $35 per month beginning Jan. 1, 2024. Unlike other bills aimed at lowering the cost of insulin, Warnock and Kennedy’s “Affordable Insulin Now Act” would also include the uninsured. 

“By making preventative care more accessible, this bill would reduce long-term health care costs for individual patients, avoid devastating complications from diabetes and take pressure off the entire health care system,” Kennedy said in a statement.

A provision capping insulin costs at $35 for Medicare beneficiaries was included as part of the Inflation Reduction Act, but the commercial insurance piece failed to get the support of 60 senators to overcome a filibuster.

Yet seven Senate Republicans voted to keep the private insurance cap in the bill; Josh Hawley (Mo.), Susan Collins (Maine), Cindy Hyde-Smith (Miss.), Kennedy, Bill Cassidy (La.), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and Dan Sullivan (Alaska). 

Warnock said he is having conversations with them, but has not picked up their support yet. 

The bill from Warnock and Kennedy is not the only congressional attempt at tackling insulin costs. 

Last year, Collins and Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) spent months working on a $35 insulin cap legislation that aimed to lower the overall price rather than just what patients pay. But the legislation did not advance, and the senators have said they plan to introduce it again shortly.

Hawley also introduced a bill earlier this year capping the monthly price of insulin at $25 a month for those who are enrolled in both private health plans and Medicare.

More recently, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) unveiled a bill earlier this month that would cap the cost at as low as $20 per vial.

Three of the leading insulin manufacturers have recently announced their own plans to reduce the price of the drug, including Eli Lilly, and Warnock said he thinks that is momentum that will help move the legislation forward.