President Biden, a long-time champion of both expanded access to healthcare and affordable prescription drugs, just froze a move made by the Trump administration late in his term aimed at reducing the cost of insulin. This has some advocates fearing that Biden essentially “canceled” affordable insulin in his first week in office. So, what’s going on?
In fact, President Biden did indeed freeze a plan that was promoted by the Trump administration to lower the cost of insulin. But it’s not what you think.
Last week, the Biden administration announced a regulatory freeze pending review on all new regulations and Executive Orders (EOs) signed by President Trump during the final days of his term, including new regulations that had not yet gone into effect. The freeze will last 60 days until the Biden team can review them more thoroughly.
President Trump had signed an EO last year claiming to make insulin more affordable, that would force community health centers, including Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) to pass along 340B Program federal discounts on insulin to patients who qualify under the program. The rule was finalized in December 2020.
This would have essentially made insulin-free for low-income patients who qualify, instead of between $1-5 dollars per vial that they have traditionally paid at these health centers for their insulin. The rule was supposed to go into effect on January 22 but has now been delayed until March 22nd.
President Trump claimed that the rule change would make insulin more affordable for the 28 million Americans who frequent FQHCs for their health care, but a Health and Human Services statement admitted that “the economic impact is expected to be minimal” because the majority of patients who get insulin from these 340B participating health centers already get discounted insulin. In some cases, patients receive a 30-day supply of insulin for just $7, according to the report published in the Federal Register.
There is some speculation that enacting President Trump’s Executive Order would cause some Federally Qualified Health Centers to go out of business, which would be truly detrimental to the populations they serve during a pandemic, and the Biden administration just wants time to review all EOs and assess their potential consequences before taking further action.
In short, the 60-day regulatory freeze is not causing the price of insulin to increase, and it is not preventing action in the future to make sure that insulin is available and affordable for all Americans who need it. Additionally, there is no evidence that the Executive Order would have actually lowered insulin costs in a substantial way for the majority of people who require the hormone to live.
While President Trump’s Executive Order may have caused a media firestorm last year, it in no way paved the way for more affordable insulin for the 7.4 million Americans who rely on daily insulin injections to live, and President Biden freezing Trump’s EO in no way raises the cost of insulin, either.
Only time will tell what steps will be taken at the federal level to assure more affordable insulin for all Americans who need it to survive. Time is of the essence, and we’re running out of it.
What steps do you think the new Biden administration needs to take to address the rising cost of insulin in the United States? Share your ideas below!