Before an expected vote on a bipartisan insulin bill next month, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) faces an uphill battle in winning over her Republican colleagues.
Senators Chuck Schumer and Jeanne Shaheen’s (D-NH) bill to lower insulin costs will be on the Senate floor “very soon,” Schumer said on Wednesday.
Insulin rationing affects up to one-in-four diabetics, and advocates say the $35 monthly cap on out-of-pocket insulin costs and the overall reduction in drug costs proposed by the bill are urgently needed.
However, the measure faces opposition due to election-year politics and concerns from some Republicans that it interferes with the free market or costs too much money. The measure.
For the bill to clear the Senate, Collins will need to win over nine other Republicans.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is among those she has met with one-on-one in her efforts to secure the Republican nomination for president (R-Ky.).
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has been briefed on the bill, as have a number of her colleagues, she told reporters. This has been brought to their attention by constituents who are struggling to pay for their insulin.
“I can’t give you a count, which you’re obviously looking for, because those briefings are ongoing,” Collins said when asked how many other Republicans are on board.
Senator Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.), who faces an intense reelection battle, has emphasized the need for action on insulin in his campaign. Legislation that could be claimed as a victory by a weak member of the opposing party is generally reluctantly passed by that party.
Schumer is also claiming that the bill is meant to address the issue of rising expenses. On a number of products, Republicans have been relentless in their attacks on Democrats for soaring prices.
It’s time for Republicans to join Democrats in supporting Senators Shaheen and Collins’ bipartisan legislation, Schumer said in a statement on Wednesday, urging them to do so.
Republicans are worried that the cap on out-of-pocket insulin costs comes too close to “price controls.”
Senator Richard Burr (R-N.C.), a Republican on the Senate Health Committee, said when asked about the Shaheen-Collins bill: “I’ve never been in favor of capping costs….
“Some pieces” of the bill appeal to Idaho’s senior senator, Senate Finance Committee chair Mike Crapo (R). However, he said, “I don’t think they exactly have the correct answer just yet.”
A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused to comment on the leader’s stance on the bill.
In general, “GOP staff are skeptical,” but some offices are waiting for a CBO estimate of the bill’s cost and the extent to which premiums would rise if more costs are shifted onto insurers, according to a Senate GOP aide.”
It’s unclear if 60 votes are possible at this point, an aide noted.
About $20 billion was spent on another House insulin bill. Any costs incurred by the project will be offset, Shaheen and Collins said Wednesday.
However, there are some Republicans who are more receptive to the idea.
senator from Iowa, who has shown a willingness to go further than the average republican on drug pricing issues, called the bill “very enticing” and said he had met with Collins for half an hour to discuss it. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa)
Additionally, the measure aims to reduce the overall cost of insulin by capping insulin costs for patients at $35 per month. The elimination of rebates paid to pharmacy benefit managers, who act as negotiators on behalf of drug manufacturers, would encourage them to keep insulin prices low.
Even though the bill provides voluntary incentives, some drug pricing advocates are concerned that the bill does not guarantee that drugmakers will lower their prices. Grassley has echoed these concerns.
When it comes to the question of whether or not it will accomplish what they want, Grassley said there is a “question.”
On the other hand, for a small government person like me, perhaps that’s something that ought to entice me,” he said.
It’s a “step in the right direction,” but Senator Roger Marshall (R-Kan.) has reservations.
It’s a “significant problem” and “we’d love to solve it,” he said, referring to Collins, whom he said he’d spoken to.
How would Collins respond to Republican concerns about giving Biden or Warnock a victory? Collins pointed to Trump administration efforts to lower drug costs and reform the rebate system, including for insulin.
Trump administration officials first proposed pursuing this pricing strategy, she said. More broadly, however, she asserted that “partisan lines” are irrelevant when it comes to the issue of how to afford insulin.
She stated that she has not yet sent out a formal request for cosponsors and that she is still working to make the complicated measure more understandable.
With any major piece of legislation, “we are going to have to do work,” she said.