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California governor vetoes bill that would have set a $35 cap for insulin

Gavin Newsom has vetoed a bill that would have stopped insurance companies from charging more than $35 for insulin.

The bill would have banned health plans and disability insurance policies from imposing any out-of-pocket expenses on insulin prescription drugs above $35 for a 30-day supply. That would have included deductibles and co-pays.

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The California governor, a Democrat, said earlier this year that the state would soon start making its own brand of insulin. California has a $50m contract with the non-profit pharmaceutical company Civica Rx to manufacture the insulin under the brand CalRx. The state would sell a 10-milliliter vial of insulin for $30.

“With CalRx, we are getting at the underlying cost, which is the true sustainable solution to high-cost pharmaceuticals,” Newsom wrote in a message explaining why he vetoed the bill on Saturday. “With co-pay caps however, the long-term costs are still passed down to consumers through higher premiums from health plans.”

State senator Scott Wiener, a Democrat from San Francisco who crafted the bill, called Newsom’s veto “a major setback that will keep tens of thousands of diabetic Californians trapped in the terrible choice between buying insulin and buying food”.

“This is a missed opportunity that will force them to wait months or years for relief from the skyrocketing costs of medical care when they could have had it immediately,” Wiener said in a news release.

Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas that converts sugar into energy. People who have diabetes don’t produce enough insulin, and people with type 1 diabetes must take insulin every day to survive.

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In January, the California attorney general, Rob Bonta, sued the companies that make and promote most of the nation’s insulin, accusing them of colluding to illegally increase the price.

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In March, the largest insulin makers announced they would voluntarily reduce the price of their products.