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Give Me Insulin (& other drugs) or Too Many Will Die

Regulating Drug Prices is Not Controversial

Even after two years of a deadly pandemic which killed nearly a million Americans, there is little indication America plans on meaningfully changing any part of its disastrous healthcare system. To emphasize this point, we need look no further than the recent vote in the House of Representatives to limit cost-sharing for insulin: capping insulin prices at $35/month or 25% of insurers negotiated price, whichever is lower. The legislation did pass in the House, but the vote was 232-193, with only 12 Republicans voting in favor! Accused child sex-trafficker Matt Gaetz attempted to defend his no vote by suggesting Americans should lose weight instead, displaying both the willful ignorance and smug cruelty that typifies the modern Republican party. The narrow margin of victory is certainly concerning, if unsurprising, but perhaps more depressing is the meager ambition of the bill itself. This bill doesn’t attempt to even generally limit cost-sharing for prescription drugs, let alone allow the government to negotiate drug prices with pharmaceutical companies. Politicians in support of this bill have pointed to the shameful doubling of insulin prices just between 2012-2016 for why action must be taken. This argument can, of course, be applied across the board to prescription drug prices, for example, the criminal increase in epipen prices engineered by “baby-killer” Joe Manchin’s daughter. Americans have been crystal clear that for both prescription prices generally, and insulin specifically, the believe the government has a role in regulating prices: How much do you agree or disagree with the following statement? It is the responsibility of the government to ensure that healthcare is affordable for all people in the US. Agree: 80% Put limits on what drug companies can charge for specific drugs that save lives or that millions of people use to treat lifelong health conditions like diabetes. Agree: 89% Allow the government to negotiate lower drug prices for employers and consumers Agree: 84% Frustratingly, despite the near unanimity of support among the people for these policy measures the fate of even this paltry bill is uncertain in the Senate. Most insidious in this entire affair has been the moving of goalposts: In the 2020 election Bernie was running on Medicare for All, and a year ago Biden was promising to at least give us a public option. Now, somehow we’ve regressed to where even regulating a single prescription drug would be a major, and unexpected victory. The iron grip of the pharmaceutical industry on our political class has only grown during the pandemic, keeping the record profits flowing, even as thousands die and millions suffer unnecessarily each year. To stop this preventable tragedy we need political accountability, and economic leverage. The former can be achieved by making an example of corrupt politicians, like Democratic Representative Henry Cuellar, who voted against the Insulin legislation, and is currently facing a challenge from progressive candidate Jessica Cisneros. His defeat would be a major shot across the bow of other corrupt politicians, making them think twice about standing the way of such popular legislation. While picking off individual politicians will certainly be progress, the nature of our political system, ruled as it is by donor-class money, can’t be solved through the ballot box alone. To create meaningful change in our healthcare system and so many other broken areas of our society, it will take economic power to stand up to these greedy forces that care only for money and power, no matter the cost to others. So join us each Tuesday in growing economic solidarity, as we build our economic power and demand a country that works for all of us, not just the few! #DSOT #UPM

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