Republicans probably don’t like being thought of as the party of the callous, inhumane, “kick the poor” caucus. Which is weird, because they could have voted to ensure every American suffering from diabetes could procure their life-dependent doses of insulin at $35 a pop, and they chose not to.
Thanks to 43 Republican senators voting “nay,” Democrats couldn’t overcome the 60-vote filibuster to cap the price of insulin at $35 for everyone. Mind you, this isn’t “free” or “socialized” health care—it’s insulin.
Roughly 1 in 10 Americans have diabetes (37.3 million) and about 1 in 3 (96 million) have pre-diabetes, according to the CDC. In a country with both an obesity crisis and a health-care system where even people with “good insurance” can go bankrupt because of a health crisis, you’d think the GOP would be looking for ways to puff up its supposed “economic populist” credentials, rather than voting against a modest price control that would help keep tens of millions of Americans from, you know, dying.
But we shouldn’t be surprised. Republicans are fine with Americans paying nearly eight times more than comparable countries for a relatively cheap medicine. The cost of insulin in America is about $100 per unit, four times the price in Chile, which was ranked as having the second-highest price in a study by Rand Corporation. According to a recent survey by CharityRx, 80 percent of Americans have racked up thousands of dollars of credit card debt to pay for this medication.
For perspective, a vial of insulin costs around $10 to produce. The three drug companies which represent 90 percent of the global insulin market gouge the prices to make obscene profits every year. They’re willfully betraying the intention of Frederick Banting, one of the discoverers of insulin’s therapeutic value, who felt it was unethical to profit from this life-saving medication. In fact, his co-discoverers agreed, and to prove it, they sold the patent for only $1. They wanted the medicine affordable and accessible for everyone who needed it.
Thankfully, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer was able to corral every Democratic senator (including the usual obstructionist Sens. Joe Manchin and Krysten Sinema) to sign off on a deal that will include a $35 cap on the price of insulin for seniors on Medicare.
Yet even in defeat, Republicans still managed to stick it to the average American. One should be used to this barbarism by now, but the GOP’s utter refusal to cap the price of insulin hits hard because it’s so personal.
Diabetes runs in the paternal side of my family. My father, in particular, has had numerous health complications exacerbated by the disease, and the risk of kidney failure and amputations is always a concern for people with diabetes. I also have aunts and uncles with the disease, but thankfully they live in the state of California. In June, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced the Golden State would invest $100 million to produce its own insulin to help make it cheaper. That’s great for 40 million California residents, but what about the rest of the country?
There are Americans who are currently rationing their insulin in the richest, most powerful country on Earth that can always find an extra $800 billion under the couch cushions to spend on the military-industrial complex—but not on affordable health care. Thus, we must read stories about Americans who continue dying while rationing their insulin. This is a sin. It is also infuriating. All of these deaths were preventable, but pharmaceutical companies need their record profits, so into an early grave they must go!
In fact, Big Pharma has been desperately trying to keep drug prices high and derail President Joe Biden’s efforts to lower the costs. Last year, pharma companies spent nearly $300 million on lobbying—with three lobbyists deployed for every member of Congress, according to Open Secrets. Ahead of the 2020 elections, two-thirds of Congress (72 senators and 302 members of the House) pocketed donation money from Big Pharma, and more recently the industry has donated big to GOP lawmakers who were amenable to its goals, and they responded accordingly over the weekend with their “no” vote.
But supporting death is par for the course for the “pro-life” GOP party.
The GOP brands itself on family values and protecting kids, which is why they ban books and CRT, but refuse to ban assault rifles or back comprehensive gun control, even as school children are being shredded by bullets. Republicans want to remind everyone that they’re pro-law enforcement and support the military, but they temporarily held up passage of the PACT Act that would expand health care benefits for veterans exposed to burn pits. Republicans want thoughts and prayers for victims of the deadly Kentucky floods that have claimed the lives of 37 people, but they won’t acknowledge the existence of climate change, which former President Donald Trump still refers to as a hoax created by China. Republicans advance draconian abortion bans with zero exceptions for rape and incest to save the pre-born, but they’re fine with mothers dying from miscarriages and health complications.
So it’s only predictable that instead of helping their Democratic colleagues improve American lives, Republicans will obstruct and complain about costs. But the GOP’s vote against the Inflation Reduction Act and capping insulin prices is perfectly on brand when helping death is part of the agenda.