WASHINGTON (KFOR) – The U.S. House of Representatives passed the Affordable Insulin Now Act last week, which, if enacted, would cap the insulin price at $35. The measure passed by a vote of 232-193 with every no vote being from Republicans, including Oklahoma’s five congressional members in the House.
KFOR reached out to all of them to find out their reasoning. Only three of them answered.
Today, a local health center chimed in on what the act would mean for our state.
“The act for insulin will help a lot of people, I think off the bat,” said Dr. Jed Friedman with the OU Health Harold Hamm Diabetes Center.
Dr. Friedman said the act could help the Sooner State in the short term, if enacted. Oklahoma has about a half-million people with diabetes and about a quarter of them struggle to afford insulin.
“And then where we have problems is all the complications of that diabetes including COVID,” Friedman said. “So, diabetes doesn’t increase your risk for COVID, but once you have COVID, it does increase the severity of your disease.”
Reps. Markwayne Mullin, Frank Lucas and Tom Cole had answers to KFOR’s request for comment regarding their no vote on the act.
“While there is bipartisan support for addressing the rising price of insulin, imposing government price controls and passing the cost along from one consumer to another, as this legislation does, is not the answer. Rather, Congress should be working to solve this problem in a comprehensive manner that addresses the main drivers of high prescription drug prices. Bipartisan solutions, like H.R. 19, already exist and would lower prescription drug prices while also protecting our nation’s biomedical research initiatives that find more cures and at a faster rate than any other country in the world.”Rep. Tom Cole
“I believe the people of Oklahoma deserve affordable access to health care. There is no question about it, I share the goal of lowering the cost of insulin with my colleagues and fellow Oklahomans. Unfortunately, the Affordable Insulin Now Act that was voted on by the House last week would have irresponsibly expanded the federal government’s role in private health care insurance. While the Affordable Insulin Now Act claims it would lower insulin costs, if enacted, the bill would lead to increased yearly premiums; therefore, increased health care costs for the American people. Shifting costs instead of reducing them fails to address the underlying issue of high prescription drug prices. I want to address those underlying issues, which is why I’m a proud co-sponsor of a bipartisan solution that would lower prices for all prescription drugs, including insulin, for the American people and my fellow Oklahomans. The Lower Costs, More Cures Act would give patients more transparency, increase low-cost prescription drug options, and cap out-of-pocket prices for insulin. If we truly want to reform our health care and provide Americans with low cost prescription drugs, Congress should do so in a bipartisan, thoughtful manner.”Rep. Frank Lucas
Rep. Markwayne Mullin sent a tweet out about the act being passed in the House.
Ironically, Mullin tweeted the opposite two years ago when Trump was in office. Mullin applauded his efforts to lower insulin costs.
Mullin also mentioned Oklahoma’s $30 cap on insulin, which is for a 30-day supply. For 90 days, it’s $90.
The executive director with Diabetes Solutions Oklahoma said in late 2021 when that Oklahoma law went into effect, that cap will “help a certain percentage of people with insurances…” adding that it’s a good start at the time, however.
“It’s currently an epidemic, as you might imagine,” Friedman said speaking about diabetes.
Dr. Friedman added that the act passed in the House is only a band-aid to a bigger issue though.
“The cost doesn’t come down just because you lower the co-pay and, therefore, how do you conquer that problem for insurance companies and so forth who have to cover those costs and typically it gets moved to the consumer,” he said. “So, ultimately you’re not fixing the problem. You’re just putting a Band-Aid on something, one that we really need and will help in the short term.”
In the long term Dr. Friedman said he hopes his center can develop other drugs that provide an alternative and competition to insulin.
Reps. Stephanie Bice and Kevin Hern did not respond to our request for comment.