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Warnock pushes insulin cost caps as campaign nears finish line

Georgia Democrat is in a Toss-up race with GOP's Herschel Walker

Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., speaks at a campaign rally in Clarkston, Ga., on Thursday.
Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., speaks at a campaign rally in Clarkston, Ga., on Thursday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

CLARKSTON, Ga. — Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock is making his advocacy for capping the cost of insulin a key part of his closing message ahead of Tuesday’s election.

Friday is the last day of early voting in Georgia, and both Warnock and Republican challenger Herschel Walker have been crisscrossing the state on bus tours.

Thursday afternoon in Clarkston, Warnock highlighted comments that Walker made about diabetes during their only debate, when the Republican said, “You got to eat right.”

“He’s running for Senate. Why doesn’t he know that you can eat right and still have diabetes?” Warnock said at an outdoor rally. “Why doesn’t he know that children have diabetes? And it doesn’t matter how you got the diabetes, I’m asking why are they gouging a drug that’s 100 years old? Why are you blaming the 1 million Georgians who have diabetes instead of holding the pharmaceutical companies accountable?”

Warnock’s stump speech included references to Walker’s display of honorary sheriff’s badges he was given to back his connections to law enforcement. Walker has been presented with badges from multiple Georgia law enforcement agencies, including the Johnson County sheriff’s office.

“Because of his dedication to law enforcement and his commitment to public safety, Sheriff Greg Rowland presented Herschel Walker with the honorary sheriff’s badge,” the office posted on Facebook after the debate, as WJCL in Savannah reported.

“Maybe Herschel Walker should run for dietitian rather than United States Senate,” Warnock said. “I mean, why not? He says he’s a police officer. He says he’s an FBI agent.”

The Democratic incumbent, who won the race for an unexpired term in a runoff in January 2021, is in a Toss-up race with Walker, a former NFL and University of Georgia running back who was encouraged to run by former President Donald Trump.

Warnock was a key driver of the push to cap insulin costs during the debate over Democrats’ health, energy and tax law. In February, Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer pledged to prioritize Warnock’s bill to cap insulin costs in Medicare and private insurance at $35 a month. 

The move was widely viewed as a potential political boost in the face of Warnock’s tough reelection fight after the Democrats’ initial effort to use the budget reconciliation process to pass an array of policy changes fell apart. Schumer soon handed the effort back to Senate Diabetes Caucus Co-Chairs Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., and Susan Collins, R-Maine, who have worked on a broader, more complicated bill for years.

But Schumer eventually made an eleventh-hour call eschewing the Shaheen-Collins bill after a surprise deal with moderate West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin III revived the budget reconciliation bill. 

Procedural rules ultimately narrowed the provisions in the final law. Starting Jan. 1, Medicare Advantage and Part D prescription drug plan enrollees will pay no more than $35 a month for an insulin product, regardless of their deductible. The $35 cap takes effect July 1 for pumps covered through traditional Medicare.

The law also caps prescription drug costs for Medicare enrollees at $2,000 starting in 2025.

The rules do not apply to patients with commercial coverage, as Democrats initially planned. And the law also does not address high list prices for uninsured patients, which Shaheen and Collins hope to do through their bill. 

Lawmakers could still revisit the issue in the lame-duck session after the election. But the Shaheen-Collins bill lacks enough GOP support to avoid a filibuster, partly because the Congressional Budget Office predicts it will increase premiums. 

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