State Senator Kate Bolz introduced legislation last week that would cap the cost of insulin in Nebraska. A press release from the senator’s office said the bill would guarantee that a patient would pay no more than $100 per month out of pocket for prescription insulin drugs.
The rising price of insulin and other drugs has become a national crisis, with other states working to pass similar bills. Several people expressed outrage and sued major pharmaceutical companies for price gouging. As pointed out by both the lawsuits and Sen. Bolz’s press release, many diabetics have resorted to skipping doses in order to save money. This is indicative of a market failure.
The usual mechanics of a market economy do not apply to life-saving drugs. When a product becomes too expensive, consumers can usually buy an alternative or just go without. But there is no alternative to insulin, and diabetics can’t go without it.
Insulin is a hormone that your body uses to regulate blood sugar. People with type 1 diabetes are physically incapable of producing their own insulin, so they need insulin injections for their bodies to function normally.
When they can’t afford the injections, diabetics are forced to “make decisions they know will damage their health,” as Senator Bolz said. T1 International, a non-profit advocating for diabetics worldwide, reported that at least 13 people have died from insulin rationing since 2017. These deaths are preventable. In fact, they are easy to prevent. All they needed was insulin.
Some worry that allowing the government to control prices will hinder innovation and that interfering with market forces has negative consequences. Those concerns can often be justified, and most problems demand far more complicated solutions than price control.
People like to use the phrase “slippery slope.” If we let the government set the price for insulin, then eventually the government will be able to set the price for anything. If I am a capitalist, then I might be very worried that this is a step towards socialism.
But those who use this phrase have forgotten why they know it. The slippery slope is a very well-known fallacy that most of us learn in English class. It’s very possible to do something without also allowing the most extreme version of that thing to happen. Slippery slopes do not exist; we have control over our actions.
Capitalism and affordable insulin can, in fact, co-exist. We don’t have to let the government take total control over the economy, nor do we have to allow death in the name of profit. Do not let ideological purity get in the way of solving problems.