Skyrocketing Cost of Insulin Draws State Attempts to Cap Prices

Wisconsin has proposed a cap on insulin prices.

Wisconsin has proposed a cap on insulin prices. Sherry Yates Young/Shutterstock

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STATE AND LOCAL ROUNDUP | Maryland Governor to chair the National Governors Association … Ohio passes legislation to save nuclear plants … New York lawmakers push for taxi driver debt relief.

Democratic representatives in Wisconsin have introduced a bill to limit the cost of insulin to no more than $100 per month. Diabetic people need insulin no differently than you and I need food and water. Yet, up to 25% of diabetic people are forced to ration or altogether skip vital doses because they cannot afford their prescribed amount. With drug manufacturers inflating prices and insurance companies demanding unreasonable copays, it is time for the Legislature to step in and ensure that no Wisconsinite unnecessarily loses their life because they cannot afford their insulin,” said state Rep. Jimmy Anderson, who introduced the legislation. Over 7.5 million Americans use insulin, and the skyrocketing cost of insulin in the past few years has caused serious problems for many middle and low-income diabetics. When patients struggle to afford insulin, some ration the medicine and take smaller than recommended doses, which exposes them to serious short- and long-term health consequences. "A vial of insulin cost just $21 when it first came on the market in 1996. It now costs $275. People are dying from lack of access to a drug that has been around for almost a century. I think it's unconscionable," said Dr. Kasia Lipska, who treats patients at the Yale Diabetes Center. Some Americans are now turning to Canada, forming caravans that cross the border to buy insulin where it costs 90% less than here in the U.S. The new bill in Wisconsin is based off of a similar measure signed into law in Colorado earlier this year by Democratic Gov. Jared Polis. Colorado’s law shifts costs beyond the $100 consumer cap to insurance companies.  Some drug makers are already making changes of their own to match new state limits. In April, Sanofi, a leading producer of insulin, announced it will cut the price of insulin for uninsured patients and those who pay cash to $99 per month. [Urban Milwaukee; PBS Newshour; Channel 3000; WKOW]

NATIONAL GOVERNORS ASSOCIATION | Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan has been promoted from vice chairman to chairman of the non-partisan National Governors Association. Hogan, a Republican, is the first Maryland governor to assume the position since 2000, and is taking over for Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, a Democrat who is running for president. Hogan said his top priority for his first year will be repairing and modernizing infrastructure. “As NGA chairman, I intend to highlight the work of our governors and drive action from our leaders in Washington on an issue that is so fundamental to our economy and our quality of life," he said. Hogan met with the last NGA chair from Maryland, former Gov. Parris Glendening, to discuss infrastructure. “I stressed to him: you’ve got to have other goals than just building more roads. There’s got to be a balance with transit,” Glendening said. Maryland Democratic Party Chairwoman Maya Rockeymoore Cummings congratulated Hogan but said that his track record of infrastructure in Maryland does not bode well for a national plan. “We hope that he gives Maryland more attention in his efforts to rebuild America’s bridges, roads and plumbing. In recent years, Baltimore has seen a transit project cancelled, collapsing sinkholes, flooding train tunnels and regular water main breaks. Systemic disinvestment in our cities cannot become a national blueprint,” she said. [WBOC; Baltimore Sun]

NUCLEAR PLANTS | Ohio passed legislation that preserves the state’s two nuclear plants, which produce over 90% of the state’s clean energy, by providing them with a $1.1 billion bailout. Both plants filed for bankruptcy in 2018 and had been threatening to cease operations if they weren’t bailed out. “Our goal all along has been to save the nuclear plants, save the jobs but also to keep the cost of energy down for the ratepayer," said Gov. Mike DeWine, a Republican. While praised by the nuclear plants, fossil fuel companies were not happy with the legislation, particularly the natural gas lobby. The American Petroleum Institute, released a statement that the group was “disappointed in the legislature for passing this corporate bailout for nuclear and coal-burning power plants” and said that there is “no telling how much additional investment [Ohio] will now miss out on because lawmakers decided to cater to corporations over constituents.” Oil and gas lobbyists are not the only ones who were upset with the legislation. Ohio’s Democratic Senator, Sherrod Brown, said that dark money groups were involved with the passage of the bailout bill. “These things happen because these monied interests control the state legislature. There’s no question about it,” he said. The oil and gas industry is now planning to sponsor a statewide referendum in 2020 to overturn the legislation. [Forbes; The Intercept]

TAXI DEBT | Many taxi drivers in New York City are hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt because they were subjected to predatory lending practices when purchasing their taxi medallion, the permit needed to drive a taxi. Taxi medallions had been sold, at times, for more than $1 million each. That crisis has prompted New York State House Democrats to urge city officials to pay off the debt of medallion owners. “We strongly encourage you to explore ways to provide much needed monetary assistance to relieve the thousands of medallion holders stuck in high interest loans with tremendous balances,” a letter from the Democrats says. Democrats blamed the city for promoting medallions as secure investments and collecting taxes on their sales, even though they suspected the permits to be overpriced. Mayor Bill de Blasio said a bailout is unrealistic, and suggested lawmakers seek help from the federal government. “Even the folks who are pro-bailout acknowledge it’s billions of dollars to begin. It’s just literally a budgetary impossibility. We can’t do it unless we want to cut back on schools or cops or fire or something else. We cannot do it,” he said. New York City Councilmember Ydanis Rodriguez, who chairs the Transportation Committee, also said he wants to help, but suggested the lawmakers help the city get federal funding. “These medallion holders, many of them immigrant New Yorkers, were sold a bill of goods, mortgaging their futures after being told a medallion was a certain ticket to the middle class. Now, that the bottom has fallen out, we’re seeing them drowning in debt. The city profited off these medallion auctions handsomely and has a moral incentive to help,” he said. [New York Daily News; Gotham Gazette]

ANTIFA | U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz criticized of Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler over his “[refusal] to quell Antifa intimidation and riots based on his apparent sympathy with these left-wing aims.” Cruz, a Republican, wrote to Attorney General William Barr, asking for a federal investigation into Wheeler, a Democrat. "You are surely aware that Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler has staunchly refused to deploy and support local law enforcement to restore order and prevent Antifa robberies and armed assaults. It is no mystery why: Antifa's violence is aimed to silence dissent from authoritarian left-wing views,” Cruz wrote. Wheeler hasn’t commented on the letter, but has disputed Cruz’s previous contention that he ordered police to stand down during a recent protest that turned violent, with people associated with Antifa attacking a conservative writer, who ended up being hospitalized. Cruz did not mention the right-wing activists that have also marched and incited violence in Portland, including the Proud Boys and Patriot Prayer groups. Antifa, a shortening of “anti-fascist,” is a group that employs “militant self-defense” because of the “historically documented violence that fascists pose, especially to marginalized people,” said Mark Bray, the author of “Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook.” [Portland Mercury; Oregon Public Broadcasting]

Emma Coleman is the assistant editor for Route Fifty. 

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