Guest column: Some progress for insulin, more needed

Published 8:45 pm Tuesday, February 14, 2023

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

Guest column by Amy Klobuchar

Insulin is an essential, life-saving drug that has been around for more than a century. Despite that, leading manufacturers have drastically increased prices by more than 600% over the past two decades. I will always remember hearing about a 65-year-old retiree in Minnesota with diabetes who was forced to spend nearly half his monthly income on insulin. As a result, he started rationing doses, putting him at risk for permanent blindness, kidney failure and death. He was just one of the countless older patients who have risked their health to protect their retirement account.

Amy Klobuchar

After years of working to lower costs, major progress on bringing down costs has been made. Beginning this year, for the first time in our nation’s history, the cost of insulin is capped at $35 per month for Medicare Part D beneficiaries. I fought for this provision because I was tired of pharmaceutical companies chipping away at older Minnesotans’ health and savings to pad their bottom lines.

Email newsletter signup

Our state is home to nearly 900,000 Medicare Part D beneficiaries, 47,000 of whom will directly benefit from this insulin cap. These seniors — most of whom are living on fixed incomes — no longer have to plan their finances around unpredictable, sky-high insulin costs. They can buy their groceries, pay their electric bills, schedule their doctors appointments and plan trips to visit loved ones with the peace of mind that comes with knowing that their monthly insulin spending will not exceed $35 per month.

This insulin cap for Medicare beneficiaries is a huge step forward, but there is more to be done. Every day in Washington, I carry with me the story of Alec, a 26-year-old restaurant manager from the southern suburbs of Minnesota. He aged off his parents’ health insurance, and three days short of his payday, wasn’t able to afford the insulin he needed to manage his diabetes. He tried rationing it to save money. Tragically it didn’t work. He died. This should never have happened in our country.

More than 8% of Minnesota adults have diabetes, and roughly 33,000 more are diagnosed with diabetes every year. That’s why no matter how many lobbyists big pharma sends to Washington — and in 2022, there were three for every member of Congress — I am always going to stand up for the health care of Minnesotans.

No one should be forced to risk their health to boost big pharma’s profits. Diabetes patients deserve a better deal. Securing a $35 price cap on insulin for seniors was an important start, but my work will not be done until all Americans — kids and all adults included — share in that benefit.

Amy Klobuchar, D-Minnesota, is a U.S. senator.