Rep. Waters Introduces Bill to Protect Medicare Patients with Diabetes during the COVID-19 Pandemic
WASHINGTON – Congresswoman Maxine Waters (CA-43), the Chair of the House Financial Services Committee and a member of the Congressional Diabetes Caucus, introduced the Affordable Insulin for the COVID-19 Emergency Act today. The bill is cosponsored by 25 of the Congresswoman’s congressional colleagues and endorsed by the American Diabetes Association.
“The price of insulin skyrocketed in the years preceding the COVID-19 pandemic, leaving seniors on fixed incomes in an especially precarious position if they cannot afford their medication,” said Congresswoman Waters. “The Affordable Insulin for the COVID-19 Emergency Act will ensure that seniors are able to afford a sufficient supply of insulin to manage their diabetes effectively without leaving the safety of their homes.”
The Affordable Insulin for the COVID-19 Emergency Act will require that seniors who are enrolled in Medicare Part D prescription drug plans be able to obtain insulin and associated medical supplies to manage their diabetes without copayments, coinsurance, deductibles, or other cost sharing between now and the end of the COVID-19 emergency. The bill will also require that Medicare beneficiaries be able to obtain a 90-day supply of insulin by mail, without the additional risk of going to a pharmacy.
“The Affordable Insulin for the COVID-19 Emergency Act marks a key step in protecting Americans living with diabetes at this unusually difficult time for the diabetes community,”said Tracey Brown, CEO of the American Diabetes Association. “COVID-19 disproportionately impacts those with diabetes and other chronic conditions, many of whom are seniors on a fixed income who are struggling to weather this severe strain on their finances. No one who needs medication to live should be forced to go without during this unprecedented public health and economic crisis. This legislation is vital to protecting the diabetes community and helping them manage their diabetes during the pandemic.”
Diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the United States, and it is especially common among the Medicare-age population. More than 14 million Americans age 65 and older, or about 27 percent, suffer from diabetes. People with diabetes have a significantly higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19 than those who do not have diabetes. Furthermore, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that people with diabetes whose blood sugar levels are often higher than their target are more likely to have diabetes-related health problems, which can make it harder to overcome COVID-19.
“COVID-19 is having a disproportionate impact on seniors, and seniors with diabetes face particularly high risks,” said Congresswoman Waters. “My legislation will help them afford their medication and manage their diabetes safely and effectively.”
Insulin is critical for the treatment of diabetes, but it is becoming increasingly expensive. According to the American Diabetes Association, more than 34 million Americans have diabetes, and about 7 million of them depend on insulin to manage their condition. Between 2002-2013, the average price of insulin nearly tripled, creating financial hardships for people who depend on it to survive. Meanwhile, in much of Europe, insulin prices are about one sixth of what they are here in the United States.
Last year, Congresswoman Waters introduced the Minority Diabetes Initiative Act (H.R. 4550) to address the disproportionate impact of diabetes among African Americans, Latinos, and other minority communities. H.R. 4550 has 60 congressional cosponsors and is awaiting consideration in the Energy and Commerce Committee.