SALT LAKE CITY — Every one of Utah's four representatives in the U.S. House voted against a bill to cap the price of insulin, which passed Thursday. But faces a steep climb in the Senate.
The four Republicans, John R. Curtis, Blake D. Moore, Burgess Owens and Chris Stewart all voted "nay" when asked if they supported capping the cost of the medication.
For decades the cost of insulin has been soaring, for the insured and un-insured.
According to a Forbes report, newer versions of insulin retail between $175 and $300 a vial. Most patients with diabetes need two or three vials per month, and some can require more.
As a result, there have been several reports of patients who cannot afford insulin who are either forced to ration their supply or skip doses altogether.
Experts say the legislation, which passed 232-193, would give significant relief for privately insured diabetics and Medicare enrollees facing skyrocketing out-of-pocket costs for their insulin.
Some could save hundreds of dollars annually, and all insured patients would get the benefit of predictable monthly costs for insulin. The bill would not help the uninsured.
Out of Utah's four representatives, only Rep. John Curtis made a statement defending his vote.
"I am disheartened that this week H.R. 19, legislation which would lower the cost of all prescription drugs, was blocked. Instead, we voted on a partisan bill to impose price controls on Insulin," Curtis said in a statement. "I voted against this legislation because, while I believe my Democratic colleagues are well intentioned, this is a band aid solution that does not address the root causes of high insulin prices. This bill only shifts costs by increasing premiums, an unsustainable solution to lowering drug prices."
The bill would need at least 10 Republican votes in the Senate before it would head to the president's desk to become law.
"If 10 Republicans stand between the American people being able to get access to affordable insulin, that's a good question for 10 Republicans to answer," said Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Mich., a cosponsor of the House bill. "Republicans get diabetes, too. Republicans die from diabetes."
Public opinion polls have consistently shown support across party lines for congressional action to limit drug costs.
The insulin bill, which would take effect in 2023, represents just one provision of a much broader prescription drug package by President Joe Biden's administration.
In addition to a $35 cap on insulin, the bill would authorize Medicare to negotiate prices for a range of other drugs, including insulin. It would also penalize drugmakers who raise prices faster than inflation and overhaul the Medicare prescription drug benefit to limit out-of-pocket costs for enrollees.
The idea of a $35 monthly cost cap for insulin actually has a bipartisan pedigree. The Trump administration had created a voluntary option for Medicare enrollees to get insulin for $35, and the Biden administration continued it.
About 37 million Americans have diabetes, and an estimated 6 million to 7 million use insulin to keep their blood sugars under control. It's an old drug, refined and improved over the years, that has seen relentless price increases.
Economist Sherry Glied of New York University said the market for insulin is a "total disaster" for many patients, particularly those with skimpy insurance plans or no insurance.
"This will make private insurance for people with diabetes a much more attractive proposition," said Glied.
FOX 13 News has reached out to Utah's representatives for further comment but have not heard back.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.