U.S. Senate to vote on limiting prescription drug costs, insulin prices in Build Back Better bill

Rep. Ron Kind was in La Crosse Wednesday to talk about a cap on insulin prices in the bill

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) — A part of the Build Back Better bill, which has passed in the U.S. House, aims to address rising prescription drug costs. Rep. Ron Kind was in La Crosse Wednesday to talk about how a cap on insulin prices is one of the focuses of that bill.

For someone with Type 1 diabetes, insulin is a lifeline.

“Without insulin, their blood sugar could get too high — leading to comas or even death,” said Holly Boisen, a patient quality manager at Gundersen Health System.

But it is expensive — it costs Sarah Beer, a Type 1 diabetic who lives in Eau Claire, $1,604.21 every month.

“I’ve been diabetic for 22 years. I used syringes to give my insulin until I was 19, I gave myself at least four shots a day, every day, for 14 years,” Beer said.

Those costs affect many more people than Beer — thousands of Wisconsinites are living with diabetes.

“In the U.S., we pay two to three times more than any other wealthy country for prescription medications,” said U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin.

GoodRX reports that insulin prices have gone up since 2014, valued at 31 cents per insulin unit in October 2021.

Lawmakers hope to change that with a clause in the Build Back Better Bill, which would cap insulin at $35 a month, said Kind, a La Crosse Democrat.

“We’re working closely to try and get some of our republican colleagues on board with this,” Baldwin said.

Insulin costs Sarah around $300 a month — just a fraction of her $1600 bill. The rest, she said, goes toward supplies to administer the insulin.

Democrats acknowledge that the bill, which now faces a Senate vote, won’t reduce all costs but believe it will lay a good foundation.

“We’ve got to start somewhere, and I think this would be a very important place to start,” Baldwin said.

The lawmakers I spoke with today say they are working across the aisle to get the bill through the senate.

We requested a comment from U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, a Wisconsin Republican, but have not heard back.

Beyond this legislation, Civica RX, a nonprofit cofounded by Mayo Clinic, plans to manufacture and distribute affordable insulin. Mayo hopes to have that option available by 2024.

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