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Within hours of stepping into office, newly inaugurated President Joe Biden froze a Trump era executive order that had been designed to lower the price of insulin.
“[T]his action temporarily delays for 60 days from the date of the memorandum the effective date of the final rule titled ‘Implementation of Executive Order on Access to Affordable Life-saving Medications,'” Biden’s Department of Health and Human Services announced via the Federal Register.
Note the name of the Trump-era rule.
Instituted last month, the rule mandated that community health centers which benefit from federal grants “establish practices to provide access to insulin and injectable epinephrine to low-income health center patients at the price the health center purchased these two drugs.”
Versus at a marked-up — or, allegedly, marked-down — price.
The rule’s freeze — which, to be clear, might conceivably be reversed once the delay period ends on March 22nd — has triggered anger from Americans, some of them doctors, who feel as if Biden is sticking it to those with diabetes for partisan reasons.
Biden reversed Trump’s Executive Order to reduce pricing for insulin and epinephrine.
Democrats want higher insulin prices? pic.twitter.com/w85pkIAchG
— Mary Vought (@MaryVought) January 22, 2021
Biden is now reversing the executive order put into place by President Trump to reduce pricing for insulin and epinephrine …
This is NOT a partisan issue and will harm Americans.
— Rupali Chadha, M.D.🩺 (@RupaliChadhaMD) January 22, 2021
Included among the critics are diabetes patients, including some that don’t even care for former President Donald Trump.
Type 1 diabetic here. Under trump my humolog dropped from 120 for 2 vials with insurance to 35 for 2 vials. In my 31 years of life that is the cheapest that I have ever paid and that’s coming from a real person with a real sickness. Trump wasn’t a good person but I supported this
— cj (@chase0890) January 22, 2021
The last prescription I had filled for insulin (earlier this month), it was $9.99. Before that, $262 and change. Same insurance, same brand, same quantity, no difference in anything. It’ll be interesting to see what happens next time I fill the script.
— Truth Hmmr (@truth_hmmr) January 22, 2021
So I rely on insulin to live and Biden reverses Trump policy on reducing the price for it. It’s been a big issue and Trump helped make my life better for a few years.
— Michael Rudisill (@M_Rudy5) January 23, 2021
My son is a T1D and his insulin went from $475 to $105 a month with insurance after Trump reduced the price.
— Marylin (@MARYLINDALESSA) January 22, 2021
My girlfriend is a type 1 diabetic. The cost of the insulin was killer until President Trump stepped in. The price fell from 156.00 per bottle to 24.99 for Novolog 70/30 insulin. Now this f**king idiot Biden ruined the whole thing. The cost skyrocket again! https://t.co/d7sVXLCbMy
— Conservativeguy (@MannoiaChris) January 23, 2021
So why has the Biden administration frozen the policy? That’s where things get murky.
First, the administration has frozen every Trump administration healthcare policy that’s raised “fact, law, or policy” concerns, according to Business Insider.
Second, ever since the rule was signed into law last summer, the National Association of Community Health Centers and other groups have been issuing statements claiming its implementation would do more harm than good.
“The National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC), state primary care associations, and local federally qualified health centers (FQHCs) have submitted comments urging the Trump administration not to implement a ‘misguided’ executive order taking away their 340B program savings on insulin and epinephrine autoinjectors,” journalist and publisher Ted Slafsky’s 340B Report reported in October.
These parties have claimed that the Trump administration’s rule is based on a “fundamental misunderstanding” of how the federal government’s 340B drug pricing program works.
The rule specifically “conditions health centers future federal grants on making insulin products and epinephrine auto-injectors available to low-income, uninsured, or under-insured patients at the reduced price FQHCs pay for the products under the 340B program,” according to 340B.
The problem, or so claim the rule’s critics claim, is that the rule would force them to charge the exact price they pay, even when the price they pay is higher than the price they’re currently charging.
“For example, the 340B price for inhaled insulin is hundreds of dollars. Health centers currently discount this price for their low-income patients, but would be prohibited from doing so under the EO,” the NACHC claimed in comments filed with the Trump administration back in October.
View the association’s full comments below:
The Biden administration believes the NACHC and its allies have a point, and so the delay in the rule’s implementation will allow officials to review the fine print for themselves and determine whether this point is indeed valid or just nonsense.
The NACHC has for its part added that, while it’d prefer that the rule be nixed, if in case it is maintained, it should at least be rewritten to prevent the problems that it highlighted in the comments it’d issued last October.
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