I’m going to be generous and say that the Democrats have had a somewhat rocky time of late trying to pass their agenda. But on Tuesday, President Joe Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act — the Build Back Better Act’s trimmed down cousin.
There’s a lot we could say about the Inflation Reduction Act, which expands Medicare benefits, invests in fighting climate change and pollution, and extends Affordable care act subsidies. But, I want to zero in on one of the most immediate parts of the bill — the reduction in insulin costs for most Medicare recipients by 2023.
Over five million Black Americans live with diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association. Roughly 19 percent of all African Americans in the United States over 20 years old have diabetes, compared to just 7 percent of all white Americans.
Despite the fact that so many Americans with diabetes require insulin (roughly 30 percent), insulin prices have skyrocketed over the years. Today, the most prescribed forms of insulin can cost anywhere from $175 to $300 a vial, according to Forbes. Most diabetes patients need at least two to three vials per month.
And even if you get Medicare, the average out-of-pocket cost of insulin products is over $54 per prescription, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
This is where the Inflation Reduction Act comes into play. The act would cap insulin costs for most Medicare recipients at $35 a month as of 2023, and would cap out-of-pocket drug costs to roughly $4,000 a year by 2024 and 2,000 a year by 2024. It would also allow Medicare to negotiate the costs of certain prescription drugs.
This could be a huge improvement for many Black Medicare recipients who receive drug coverage and also take insulin. As of 2011, roughly 38 percent of Black Medicare beneficiaries had diabetes, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. And nearly a third of Black Medicare beneficiaries reported health care cost-related problems in 2018.
Here’s where you might be asking, what about everyone who isn’t on Medicare, why does the bill leave them out?
Democrats did attempt to cap insulin prices for private insurers, but because they don’t have a supermajority (60 votes or more in the Senate), Republicans were able to strip the provision out on the Senate floor.
Despite losing the battle over capping insulin costs for private insurers, it’s likely Democrats are still enjoying their win after months of failing to get most major parts of their agenda passed. And if you’re a diabetic on Medicare’s prescription drug policy, this bill is likely a win for you too.