A takedown of Biden's fist-banging demands for impossibly cheap insulin

There is a certain annoying demand that President Biden makes in many of his stump speeches.  Actually, there are many annoying demands, but the one that I'm thinking of now involves his claim that nasty drug manufacturers are jacking up the price of generic insulin 20 or 30 or a hundred times over the actual cost of production, and the nasty Republicans in Congress won't vote for the Build Back Better spending bill, which would correct this gross injustice.

In Biden's theory, the cost to the manufacturers to produce a vial of insulin is "10 bucks."  There are no research and development costs to add on to the cost of manufacture because the process of manufacturing insulin was established decades ago.

In Biden's theory, the cost for patients to purchase such a vial should allow for a healthy, generous profit.  That's nice of him, capitalist that he claims he is, but he defines a "healthy and generous" markup to be a maximum of $35.

But what do we have? he asks.  We see pharmacies charging $630, $650, $1,000 for the insulin.  He thinks it's unconscionable.  He asks, what happens when a poor family needs insulin but doesn't have that kind of money and doesn't have health insurance and can't afford to buy it?  How does a parent, Biden asks, tell his child that he, the parent, cannot see to the child's critical health need?  And at this point in the speech, Biden works himself into a rage and a shouting fit, literally screaming, "It deprives you of your dignity, dammit!" 

Whether or not the rage is genuine or contrived, it is there for the world to see, and for each viewer to make up his mind as to Biden's sincerity.

Here are a few examples:

  • On December 8 Biden flew to Kansas City to agitate for his Infrastructure Bill and Build Back Better, and said, of insulin:

Lowering the cost of prescription drug (singular), making sure you pay no more than 35 bucks a month for insulin, not $100, not $1,000 a month, saving $600 per person per year, on healthcare premiums[.]

The math makes no sense: such a patient, heretofore paying $1,000 for a vial, would save $965 if Biden gets his way, not $600 — but that's a quibble.This, though, establishes his basic argument.

I'm worried about that mom whose daughter has diabetes, and don't have [sic] insurance, and that insulin; it costs 10 bucks to left [sic] to make ...

'Magine you're a parent, and will the one of the 200,000 children in this country with Type 1 diabetes.Insulin, can cost on average it's average 650 bucks a month, but CANNOT cost as much as a thousand dollars a month…

Obviously, he meant to say, "can cost as much as a thousand dollars a month."

The insulin we're talking about – do you know how much it makes – coststo make that vial of insulins [sic]? ... The average cost (of insulin) is $863 a month – or eshoo me, $683 a month ...

  • On May 10, Biden gave a major speech about the inflation problem, which until this time he'd been reluctant to acknowledge.  He amusingly forgot the name of the Department of Defense...

My plan would let Medicare negotiate prices for prescription drugs, like they do with the, uh, wi-wi-with the Department of, uh, uh, w-with the military ...

...and seconds later got into the matter of insulin, in which he actually called for a cap on the price of insulin — which, elsewhere, he's said, should be $35 a vial:

Re cap [sic] – and I I also call for a cap, in the price of insulin, which 200 million — to escuse me; I beg your pardon – 200,000 American children rely on[.] ... But the Republics [sic] in Congress don't seem to think so[.]

Biden has claimed that the bad "Republics" are holding the lives of 200,000 children stricken with Type 2 diabetes hostage to their refusal to pass the Build Back Better bill.

I don't know why the price of insulin is so high, or whether Biden's numbers are any good.  But even if I take Biden at his word, that the cost of insulin really is that high, there is a simple answer.

Instead of lumping the problem of prescription insulin inside a gargantuan omnibus spending bill, which "Republics" cannot swallow, let Biden propose a simple, short, standalone piece of legislation that will regulate the cost of insulin at $35 a vial, and will subsidize the pharmacy companies to make as much as needed if necessary.

Who would have the heart to deny needy, deserving children their insulin?  The bill would be bound to pass.

  But Biden doesn't do this.  It is he, Biden, who himself is holding those innocents hostage to his legislative agendum, to pass more, huge spending bills.

Image: Gage Skidmore via Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0.

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