President Trump issued an executive order in July that was intended to lower the price of insulin for some Americans. It is yet to be implemented.
On May 26, 2020, Trump unveiled a plan to cap the cost of insulin for Medicare recipients at $35 per month beginning in 2021. The White House press release stated, “Across the Nation, participating enhanced Part D plans will provide many seniors with Medicare access to a broad set of insulins at a maximum $35 copay for a month’s supply of each type of insulin.” The extent to which senior citizens will benefit from this move is yet to be gauged as the plan is yet to be implemented. The benefit is only available to the seniors enrolled in the specified insurance plans.
On July 24, 2020, Trump issued the Executive Order on Access to Affordable Life-saving Medications. The fourth proposal requires the provision of insulin and/or an EpiPen free through an existing program mandating pharmaceutical companies to provide steep discounts to thousands of hospitals and community health centers that serve large numbers of low-income patients, reported The Washington Post. However, that plan still hasn’t been enacted.
FactCheck.org citing experts stated that the scope of their effects remained to be seen since the orders first required further action by the administration.
According to an analysis conducted by PolitiFact, the benefits of the order can only be reaped by a small section of the population. “Trump’s order targeted a select group of health care providers, Federally Qualified Health Centers. These centers serve people of limited means, focusing on rural and low-income communities. There are over 1,300 of these health centers. That’s a lot, but in terms of the particular federal drug discount program that they use to buy insulin — something called the 340B program — they represent less than a fifth of the 340B participating clinics and hospitals nationwide. And out of all operations that contract with the program, including individual pharmacies, these clinics represent less than 2%. So the executive order affects only a slice of providers, and it hinges on the 340B drug program.”
The Washington Post observed in a report that the orders were unlikely to take effect anytime soon if they do so because the power to implement drug pricing policy through executive order is limited and that the drug industry was likely to challenge it in court. “White House aides spent much of Thursday fielding calls from drug company executives expressing frustration the administration is pushing the orders even as it presses the industry — including awarding companies billions of dollars — to develop and manufacture vaccines and treatments for COVID-19, the disease caused by a coronavirus, according to a senior administration official and a Republican lobbyist who spoke on the condition of anonymity to relate internal deliberations.
Steve Ubl, president, and chief executive of PhRMA, the largest drug industry trade group, told The Washington Post, “The research-based biopharmaceutical industry has been working around the clock to develop therapeutics and vaccines to treat and prevent COVID-19. The administration’s proposal today is a reckless distraction that impedes our ability to respond to the current pandemic — and those we could face in the future.”
That the law may face legal bottlenecks was corroborated by Bloomberg Law. A report based on interviews with health lawyers said the community health centers targeted in the order already sell discounted drugs to patients, and the Trump administration might not have the legal power to force deeper discounts at enough pharmacies to make a difference.
On Sept 25, Trump announced that his administration would allow the importation of prescription drugs from Canada. Even though insulin was not included among the drugs covered by the rule, the Trump administration has issued a request for proposals seeking plans from private companies on how insulin could be safely brought in from other countries and made available to consumers at a lower cost than products here, as per the Kaiser Family Foundation.
Given that none of Trump’s orders for reducing insulin costs have actually been implemented, his claims that insulin has become so cheap that it is like water is a long stretch.