Rep. Huffman Hosts Roundtable & Releases New Report on High Costs of Prescription Drugs in CA-02

June 18, 2019

Washington, D.C.- Today, Congressman Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael) hosted a roundtable discussion at Marin General Hospital’s Braden Diabetes Center about the rising cost of prescription drugs with health care advocates, medical professionals, and diabetes patients.

The congressional roundtable examined the findings of a report that Rep. Huffman released today from the Committee on Oversight and Reform detailing the rising prices of diabetes drugs, and assessing how those escalating costs are harming seniors and the uninsured in California’s second congressional district. Insulin is required for Type 1 Diabetes patients to live, and other patients with Type 2 or Gestational diabetes need insulin to prevent serious health complications to themselves or their newborn baby. However, their unaffordability at the pharmacy counter has led to life-threatening consequences of patients rationing their medications or quitting dosages all together. 

“On the North Coast and across the country, families, seniors, and the uninsured are forced to choose between life-saving diabetes medications and keeping a roof over their head and food on the table,” said Rep. Huffman. “As detailed in my new report, the rising cost of insulin is unacceptable, and we clearly must do more to rein in the out-of-pocket costs. Hearing from patients and medical professionals, like the ones who bravely shared their experiences at today’s roundtable, is the first step in elevating this conversation in Congress. I will keep working to not only lower prescription drug costs, but make health care more affordable for every American.”

Specifically, the report found that:

  • The costs to seniors are exorbitant:
    • In CA-02, there are an estimated 21,000 seniors and disabled Medicare beneficiaries who have been diagnosed with diabetes. The top 50 diabetes medications cost the Medicare program and beneficiaries approximately $8.5 million in 2016. These very same drugs are available at significantly lower prices in other countries.
    • Because Medicare beneficiaries may be responsible for a significant part of their drug costs until they reach catastrophic coverage limits, Medicare beneficiaries in the district also would have realized substantial savings if these drugs were made available at the lower prices charged in foreign countries. For example, a Medicare beneficiary in the district could incur approximately $1,480 in out-of-pocket costs for an annual supply of Novolog Flexpen.
  • The costs also hit many uninsured patients with bills they can’t afford:
    • The estimated 43,000 uninsured individuals in the district pay even higher prices for their drugs as compared to patients in other countries.
    • Uninsured diabetes patients in the district who purchase a monthly supply of Novolog Flexpen—a popular insulin brand—pay an average discounted price of $584, as compared to $28 in Australia, $42 in the United Kingdom, and $47 in Canada

Rep. Huffman recently voted for five different bills to lower the cost of prescription drugs by promoting generic competition, all of which passed the U.S. House of Representatives this Congress. He is also an outspoken advocate for ambitious efforts to make health care more affordable, including Medicare for All.

The full text of the new report, “Prices of Diabetes Drugs for Seniors and the

Uninsured in the United States and Abroad: California’s 2nd Congressional District,” can be found here.