FACT CHECK: Fact-Checking Biden-Harris HQ’s Post About Trump And Insulin Prices

Christine Sellers | Fact Check Reporter

In a June 3 post shared on X, the Biden-Harris campaign (Biden-Harris HQ) claimed 2024 presumptive Republican nominee and former President Donald Trump did not cap insulin prices for seniors during his term.

Verdict: Unsubstantiated

The Trump administration did call for a cap on insulin costs for Medicare beneficiaries through Medicare Part D, but the program was voluntary. Trump also signed a July 2020 executive order that applied to federally qualified health centers (FQHCs). Multiple sources and experts indicated that the executive order was finalized but rescinded by the Biden administration.

Fact Check:

In a June 8 TRUTH Social post, Trump said President Joe Biden “had nothing to do with” lowering insulin prices, according to The Hill. Trump accused Biden of trying to “take credit” for “things done by others” via the same post, the outlet reported.

In the June 3 X post, Biden-Harris HQ claimed Trump did not cap insulin prices for seniors during his term as president. The post features a video of Fox News journalist John Roberts speaking with fellow Fox News journalist Sandra Smith.

In the video, Roberts, who served as the network’s chief White House correspondent from 2017 to 2021, says Trump had signed an executive order in May 2020 to cap the price of insulin for Medicare recipients at $35 per month, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The video has garnered over one million views as of writing.

The Biden-Harris campaign’s claim appears to be missing key context about the Trump administration’s actions of capping insulin.

The Trump administration announced plans to lower the cost of insulin for seniors through Medicare Part D prescription drug plans and Medicare Advantage plans with prescription drug coverage, according to 2020 press releases from both the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Participating plans provided Medicare beneficiaries access to insulin at $35 per month, both releases indicate. The voluntary initiative took effect on January 1, 2021.

Theo Merkel, a senior fellow at the conservative Manhattan Institute, told Check Your Fact via phone that this initiative is separate from a July 2020 executive order regarding insulin access that applied to FQHCs.

“Trump’s $35 cap, which was not part of his executive order, but rather, the Senior Savings Model Demonstration (CMMI Model), gave seniors the option to select plans to cap insulin at $35 per month and went into effect in 2021,” Merkel said.

Merkel also worked on economic policy in the Trump administration as a special assistant to the president for economic policy at the National Economic Council from 2019-2020.

In May 2020, The Washington Post reported on Trump’s plan to lower the price of insulin for seniors, citing an event in the White House Rose Garden where the then-president addressed the initiative.

“We have reached a breakthrough agreement to dramatically slash the out-of-pocket costs of insulin. You know what’s happened to insulin over the years, right? Through the roof,” Trump said during the event.

In addition to this initiative, Trump issued Executive Order 13937, or “Access to Affordable Life-Saving Medications” on July 24, 2020. According to Merkel, the executive order, which was “finalized” before Trump left office in January 2021, required FQHCs to “give insulin to anyone below 300% of the federal poverty level (FPL).” The order was set to take effect on January 22, 2021, but it was “halted then repealed by the Biden administration,” Merkel said.

The executive order, which was finalized on December 23, 2020, according to Policy & Medicine, became subject to a “regulatory freeze” when Biden took office, the AFP reported in February 2021. The freeze occurred to allow the Biden administration time to “review any new or pending rules,” the outlet stated. Likewise, Policy & Medicine noted the Biden administration rescinded the order after delaying it twice. Although the rule became effective on July 20, 2021, it was never implemented, the outlet indicated.

Dr. Nancy Nielsen, senior associate dean for health policy at the University at Buffalo’s Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, said the executive order was rescinded due to “excessive administrative costs.”

“On October 1, 2021, the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) rescinded Trump’s order completely,” Nielsen said. “The reason they gave was excessive administrative costs, making it a burden for the FQHCs to implement.”

Nielsen explained that FQHCs already give low-cost insulin to people who “go there for care” and Trump’s benefit would “expand to people who had higher income than they were used to giving the drugs to.” A rescission available via the Federal Register confirms HHS rescinded Trump’s executive order due to “the excessive administrative costs and burdens that implementation would have imposed on health centers.”

After rescinding Trump’s executive order, Biden then capped the price of insulin at $35 per month for seniors with his Inflation Reduction Act, which was signed into law in August 2022. (RELATED: Fact Checking Biden’s Claim That He Was ‘Appointed’ To The Naval Academy)

Multiple experts offered their perspectives on the claim with Check Your Fact.

Nicole Rapfogel, a health policy analyst at the liberal Center for American Progress, emphasized the differences between Trump’s executive order and Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act.

“Under the Trump administration’s executive order, Medicare Part D plans could voluntarily participate in a model to cover at least one insulin product of each dosage form at $35 per month in cost sharing. The Inflation Reduction Act, signed by President Biden, required all Part D plans to offer all covered insulin products at $35 per month in out-of-pocket costs, and included Part B insulin products in the cost sharing cap. While the Trump administration’s executive order resulted in less than 40% of plans participating in the $35 insulin cost cap in 2022, the IRA, implemented by the Biden administration, resulted in 100% plan participation in 2024,” Rapfogel explained.

Michael Cannon, director of health policy studies at the libertarian Cato Institute, labeled both presidents’ plans as “bad ideas.”

“[The] short version [is this]: Trump implemented a bad idea on a small scale. Biden implemented a similar bad idea on a larger scale. Despite the screeching from partisans and solemn intonations from establishment health policy wonks, neither idea is that much different or obviously better/worse than the other,” Cannon said.

Dr. Richard Frank, a senior fellow in economic studies and director of the Center on Health Policy at the left-of-center Brookings Institution, also reiterated that Trump’s executive order only applied to FQHCs.
“It looks to me that [Trump’s executive order] directs discounts to be granted to patients of FQHCs. The order does not specify a price. It also appears to only apply to FQHCs. That is different from establishing out of pocket caps as the IRA [Inflation Reduction Act] does for all Medicare patients using the insulin products identified in the Act,” Frank said.

Finally, Nielsen said that despite their different approaches to the issue of lowering insulin costs, both Trump and Biden “deserve some credit.”

“There’s a big difference between both. Trump took a more Republican approach, which doesn’t surprise you. His plan would affect many fewer people, that’s the difference. Whereas Biden’s affects many, many more people,” Nielsen said.

Besides Trump’s previous initiatives, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) also opened a pathway for biosimilar insulins during his tenure as president.

Check Your Fact has contacted Biden’s campaign, a Trump spokesperson and multiple other experts for comment and will update this piece accordingly if one is received.

Christine Sellers

Fact Check Reporter