Tennessee, Georgia officers cut up alongside partisan traces over the Home invoice to restrict insulin prices

NASHVILLE — Congressmen from Tennessee and Georgia split along partisan lines this week in a vote on an election-year bill aimed at capping insulin costs for insured patients at $35 a month.

The Affordable Insulin Now Act passed the Democratic-controlled House Thursday by a vote of 237 to 193, with only 12 Republicans joining the Democrats to vote for the measure.

His fate is unclear in the Senate, where the 50 Democrats need 10 Republicans to put the matter to a vote.

Tennessee Republicans, Chuck Fleischmann of Ooltewah and Scott DesJarlais of Sherwood, voted no to the bill, as did the five other GOP lawmakers from the state.

The delegation’s two Democrats, Memphis Representatives Steve Cohen and Jim Cooper, both voted yes.

In Georgia, US Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Rome, voted no, as did seven other Republicans. Six members of the Democratic House of Representatives from Georgia voted in favor.

Cohen announced his support for the measure in a tweet on Thursday.

“Americans with diabetes are dying because they can’t afford their medicine,” the congressman wrote. “Today I voted with House Dems to limit insulin costs to $35 a month.”

But Fleischmann slammed the bill in a Friday statement to the Times Free Press, in which he compared House Resolution 6833 to the Affordable Care Act signed into law in 2010 by then-President Barack Obama.

“HR 6833 is the largest lasting extension of government leadership and control over Americans’ private health insurance since the Obamacare disaster forced Americans, and it brings us one step closer to Medicare for All,” Fleischmann said. “This law is nothing more than a makeover by the President [Joe] Biden failed [Build Back Better] an agenda that couldn’t pass Congress,” Fleischmann added. “It enriches middlemen, such as pharmacy benefit administrators, at the expense of patients and increases premiums for seniors and the 217 million Americans who rely on private insurance. “

Insulin costs less than $10 per vial to make. However, a 2020 Kaiser Family Foundation report found that costs for patients can range from $334 per month to $1,000 per month.

U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Nashville, speaks with reporters in his Nashville office, Feb. 16, 2018. (AP Photo/Jonathan Mattise)

Fleischmann said that if Democrats are serious about lowering the cost of prescription drugs, including insulin, they would immediately introduce what he described as a bipartisan bill that would increase drug pricing transparency, limit seniors’ co-payments for insulin, and set high Health plans with a deductible cover insulin before the deductible takes effect.

DesJarlais’ office said in a Friday statement to the Times Free Press that “President Biden repealed President Trump’s executive order on access to affordable life-saving drugs, which was a practical solution that protected both the patient and the free market.” The United States leads the world when it comes to healthcare innovation.

“Democrats’ pricing program will set us back, stifle innovation and result in higher insurance premiums paid by seniors and hard-working citizens,” the statement continued. “The reality is that Biden’s attempt at market manipulation will jeopardize the ability of our most vulnerable Americans to pay for life-saving treatments.”

In a House speech Thursday, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Maryland, said the cost of insulin is keeping some patients from taking it the way they should.

“It only costs $10 to make a month’s supply,” he said. “However, with deductible costs in excess of $600 for a 40-day supply, many Americans have resorted to rationing or skipping doses of their insulin because they cannot afford it. Legislation in front of us would cap spending – pocket price insulin at $35 per month. This would ease the burden of skyrocketing prices and impossible choices.”

The insulin cost cap bill was included in Biden’s $2 trillion Build Back Better budget bill, which has stalled in the Senate. Democratic senators and members of the House of Representatives then began pushing the standalone insulin bill.

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FILE — Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene speaks during a rally Saturday, March 5, 2022, in Rome, Ga. (AP Photo/Mike Stewart, File)

Tennessee, Georgia senators agree

Judd Deere, a spokesman for US Sen. Bill Hagerty, R-Tenn., said his boss has serious concerns about the approach of the Democratic bill.

“Senator Hagerty supports lowering the cost of insulin and other prescription drugs through increased price transparency and encouraging innovation and competition, not through government price controls that create billions of dollars in new Medicare deficit spending, exacerbate inflationary pressures, and increase health insurance premiums for seniors.” said Deere.

Earlier this week, US Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Georgia, and Patty Murray, D-Washington, held a virtual roundtable with home state residents on the $35 ceiling.

Warnock said because insulin was developed a century ago, there’s no reason for prices to go up, The Florida Phoenix reported.

“The cost of prescription drugs like insulin has skyrocketed,” Warnock was quoted as saying. “It’s not just an inconvenience if you don’t have access to it. This is a life-saving drug.”

“We’re not talking about the cost of research and development here,” the senator added. “We pay the cost of greed.”

Contact Andy Sher at asher@timesfreepress.com or 615-255-0550. Follow him on Twitter @AndySher1.