Schumer, It’s Time to Stop the Insulin Racket!

Hey there, champions of justice! If you’ve been staying tuned to the pulse of healthcare reform, you’re aware that insulin prices are a raging issue. But worry not, as a coalition of 40 advocacy groups, headed by our friends at Public Citizen and T1International, are fighting the good fight. They’re calling on our Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) to take the gloves off and tackle insulin price gouging in an upcoming health package.

We saw some action on insulin prices over the past year, but let’s be real – the steps taken were more like a baby’s toddle than a giant’s stride. Our advocates know this, and they’re pushing for bolder, broader reforms so that everyone who needs insulin can access it. This isn’t just about some people – it’s about everyone.

It’s all coming into focus as Schumer and Senate Health Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-VT) prepare a health package designed to amp up community health centers and ease the burden of prescription drug prices. The package could include one of two rival bipartisan bills aimed at insulin prices. Schumer mentioned tackling health issues in a letter to his colleagues, now that the Senate’s back in the ring.

But, and this is a big BUT, the recent changes don’t go far enough, according to the advocates. To really level up equity in insulin access, the legislation needs to cover both uninsured folks and those with insurance. The current government plan caps insulin prices at $35 a month under Medicare, which is a start. Several big-shot insulin makers have also vowed to limit out-of-pocket costs to $35 a month. But uninsured people are still forced to jump through more hoops than a circus acrobat to get that price.

Our advocates aren’t just looking at patients’ costs, though – they’re taking aim at the root of the issue: the pharmaceutical companies and the insulin market. They’re demanding Schumer and Sanders address the industry middlemen and anticompetitive schemes that keep drug prices skyrocketing like a rocket to Mars.

Insulin pricing is a clear example of how these corporations make massive profits off the suffering and death of people who need insulin. And let’s not forget how they drain billions of dollars from government funds and consumers’ wallets. It’s a system that’s anything but fair.

As our advocacy coalition points out, “Any insulin legislation that fails to lower the list prices charged by insulin manufacturers would fail to hold these corporations accountable, in effect rewarding them for decades of price gouging.”

Remember earlier this year when, due to pressure from Sanders and activists (like many of you!), three major insulin makers pledged to cap out-of-pocket costs for their insulin products? They brought the prices down from outrageous hundreds of dollars a month to something closer to the original price tags. But let’s be clear: those changes came about only after enormous public pressure, and it seems like the companies were just playing the PR game.

As it stands, people are still rationing insulin because of its prohibitive cost. A 2022 study estimated that 1.3 million people had to ration insulin in 2021. That’s dangerous, life-threatening, and frankly, unacceptable. So, Schumer, Sanders, and everyone in the Senate: let’s step it up and put an end to the insulin racket. The American people deserve better.