U.S. Sen. Rob Portman voted to strike down a cap on insulin prices over the weekend as senators debated sweeping legislation that would fund climate initiatives and reduce prescription drug prices.
Senate Democrats approved the bill Sunday after a marathon overnight session, delivering a major win to President Joe Biden and his party ahead of the November election. Portman opposed the bill, while Sen. Sherrod Brown voted in favor of it.
However, the insulin provision did not make it to the final vote.
Most Republicans blocked a proposed $35 cap on insulin co-pays for private insurers after the Senate parliamentarian determined it didn't fall under reconciliation, which allows legislation on taxes and spending to pass with a simple majority.
Seven Republicans voted to maintain the cap for private insurance, but that wasn't enough to reach the 60 votes needed under Senate rules. A separate plan to lower insulin costs for Medicare got through the Senate.
Portman spokeswoman Mollie Timmons said the senator supported a Republican alternative to the Democrats' plan that was "more targeted, geared towards low-income Americans who are most in need."
"He hopes to build off this work in the coming weeks by working with senators on both sides of the aisle on a standalone bill that finds a way to bring down the cost of insulin for working Americans," Timmons said.
Insulin is used to treat diabetes, which ails 11.3% of Americans, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
A Kaiser Family Foundation analysis found at least 1 in 5 insulin users on private insurance spend more than $35 per month.
"Senate Republicans just voted to block all Americans from saving money on insulin," Brown tweeted after the vote. "There's no reason other than corporate greed for insulin to cost more than $35 a month."
Proponents of the bill hope lawmakers can find a compromise to alleviate the burden on patients.
Chuck Gehring, president and CEO of LifeCare Alliance, said efforts to cap insulin at $35 a month for private insurance were unlikely to succeed due to the high cost of the medication. He said the average monthly cost for insulin ranges from $400 to $500.
The nonprofit operates the Central Ohio Diabetes Association, which helps those in Greater Columbus living with diabetes detect their condition, prevent onset and complications, and learn to live with the medical condition, according to its website.
Gehring said people sometimes water down their insulin or stretch out the medication for days so that they're not taking the prescribed dose. While the Central Ohio Diabetes Association can't cover someone's insulin costs, the organization helps people with rent and utility payments so the extra money can go toward medication.
"If you're body's not getting enough insulin and if you've got a serious problem, you will at some point end up in the hospital or worse," Gehring said.
What does reconciliation bill do?
The federal legislation, dubbed the Inflation Reduction Act, includes several Democratic priorities on health care and climate change. It would do the following:
Allow Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices.
Extend Affordable Care Act subsidies three more years through 2025.
Provide funding to boost electric vehicle production, help farmers address climate change, and make homes for low-income Americans more energy efficient.
Impose a 15% corporate minimum tax on companies with more than $1 billion in profits, as well as a 1% tax on stock buybacks.
Provide funding to boost Internal Revenue Service enforcement, with a focus on preventing high-earners from dodging their taxes.
Proponents contend the corporate tax closes loopholes that allow these companies to get away with paying less. Portman and other Republicans say Americans will bear the brunt of these increased costs through lower wages and fewer benefits.
An analysis from the Joint Committee on Taxation found federal taxes will go up an average of 1.4% across all income brackets.
"When you're at the gas pump or you're at the grocery store or buying something anywhere today, you're feeling the sticker shock, and yet, this legislation is going to make it even worse," Portman said on the Senate floor.
The bill now moves to the U.S. House, which could pass it as early as Friday. U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, who is running for U.S. Senate, said he plans to support the bill, calling it a "major win" for working people.
"This bill will bring down inflation, reduce long-term energy costs, and set us on the path to dominate the clean energy industry by creating millions of good-paying jobs here at home," he said. "We must pass this legislation immediately and provide relief to Americans who are working longer and harder than ever to make ends meet."
Ryan's opponent, J.D. Vance, called the bill a "catastrophically bad piece of legislation."
USA TODAY contributed to this report.
Haley BeMiller is a reporter for the USA TODAY Network Ohio Bureau, which serves the Columbus Dispatch, Cincinnati Enquirer, Akron Beacon Journal and 18 other affiliated news organizations across Ohio.