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Dems are right to keep pushing on affordable, accessible, quality health care

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Dems are right to keep pushing on affordable, accessible, quality health care

Sep 11, 2023 | 7:00 am ET
By Quinn Nystrom
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Dems are right to keep pushing on affordable, accessible, quality health care
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Medicare recipients who take insulin were the first to benefit from the Inflation Reduction Act, while some other drug costs will start to decrease in 2026. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images.

I’ve had Type 1 diabetes for 25 years. Type 1 diabetes is just one of the many diseases that people experience through no fault of their own. For me, taking insulin to treat my diabetes isn’t optional — it’s my life support.

Health conditions like diabetes put me and millions of other Americans at the mercy of greedy insurance companies and Big Pharma. In the late 1990s, a vial of insulin cost $25. Nothing has changed, yet today that same medication is $340.

We live in the wealthiest country in the world, yet we’ve priced people out of lifesaving medications. Fortunately, we’re reclaiming some of that power.

Thanks to the work of President Biden and Democrats in Congress, seniors are finally starting to get lower drug costs they deserve. This August marked the one-year anniversary of the Inflation Reduction Act, which lowers prescription drug and health coverage costs for millions of people in America.

On average, people who buy their own health coverage will save about $2,400 on premiums. The law also caps insulin costs for people on Medicare to $35 a month, which will benefit about 27,000 Minnesotans. And the Inflation Reduction Act penalizes big drug companies for egregious price hikes, which is already helping Minnesotans.

The benefits of this law are just beginning. Soon, seniors’ drug costs will be capped at $2,000 annually, and Medicare will finally be able to negotiate lower drug prices.

The Biden administration recently announced 10 drugs that have been selected for the first round of price negotiations: Eliquis for blood clots; Jardiance for blood clots and heart failure; Xarelto for blood clots and and coronary or peripheral artery disease; Januvia for diabetes; Farxiga for diabetes, heart failure, and chronic kidney disease; Entresto for heart failure; Enbrel for rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis; Imbruvica for blood cancers; Stelara for psoriasis, psoriatic arthritis, Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis; and, for diabetes: Fiasp, Fiasp FlexTouch Fiasp, PenFill,  NovoLog, NovoLog FlexPen and NovoLog PenFill.

In celebration of these achievements, I recently joined Protect Our Care’s nationwide bus tour in St. Louis Park. I joined elected champions and other advocates to share how these important policy changes are driving down health care costs — with even more relief on the way.

Minnesota’s congressional Democrats helped pass the Inflation Reduction Act. And they have been supporting the Biden administration as it acts to eliminate surprise medical bills and expand protections for people with pre-existing conditions like asthma, cancer and diabetes.

In addition to these bold federal actions, Minnesota has made great strides to increase access to insulin and other life-saving drugs through the Alec Smith Emergency Insulin Act and the newly created Prescription Drug Affordability Board. I’m glad we have leaders like Attorney General Keith Ellison and state Sen. Kelly Morrison, DFL-Deephaven, fighting for people like me in court and at the Capitol.

As we’ve seen here in Minnesota, big drug companies and their Republican allies are intent on protecting outrageous profits over people. After spending more than $100 million on lobbying to kill the Inflation Reduction Act, drug companies are suing the federal government to try to take away Medicare’s power to negotiate drug prices — just like they sued Minnesota after we passed the Alec Smith law.

Far too many Americans are cutting pills and skipping doses, which is harming their health and — as we tragically saw in the case of Alec Smith — claiming lives. Drug companies shouldn’t be allowed to overcharge seniors and have taxpayers pad their sky-high profits. It’s insulting to American patients like me who pay up to four times more for the same drugs as patients in other wealthy countries.

Republicans unanimously oppose the Inflation Reduction Act, and now they are ramping up their war on health care by trying to repeal the Inflation Reduction Act’s measures to lower prescription drug costs, slash Medicare, Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act, and promote junk plans that allow discrimination against people with pre-existing conditions.

Minnesotans depend on quality, affordable health care to live healthy, secure lives, and the Inflation Reduction Act is a historic step forward to lowering costs.

We need allies from all political backgrounds to join this fight. There is no cure for Type 1 diabetes, and I will have to use insulin for the rest of my life.

Minnesotans need advocates in and outside of elected office, and we need organizations like Protect Our Care who understand the importance of lowering the costs of medications, lowering the costs of health care, and making sure affordable health care is accessible to every single Minnesotan and American.