One example of an early plot point in a dystopian movie: People not being able to afford life-saving medications because corporations are gouging prices. But wait! That’s actually a reality in the U.S. One state, thankfully, is working to change this.
While this law doesn’t apply to the entire country (or even all medications), Governor Jared Polis (who is also the first openly gay Governor and first Jewish Governor in the state), a Democrat in Colorado, signed an exciting bill into law that will ensure people with diabetes (who have insurance) have to spend no more than $100 each month on insulin in co-pays. This is, at minimum, an excellent first step.
Is $100 a lot? In one perspective: Undoubtedly, yes. Compared to what Colorado residents have been paying, as reported by CBS Denver, however, it’s likely to be a relief. CBS Denver reports that people living with diabetes have been paying between $600 and $900 per month in Colorado. This amount is almost beyond comprehension.
This price cap will take effect in January 2020. Basically, the law caps co-pays on insulin for Colorado residents no matter how much they need. To be clear: It doesn’t actually cap what insulin manufacturers can charge insurers, but insurance companies have to cover the additional cost or differential, as opposed to the patient. It also refers to people with private insurance.
Colorado state Rep. Dylan Roberts introduced the bill. Roberts, a Democrat, lost his younger brother, Murphy Roberts, to type 1 Diabetes, as reported by CBS Denver. When signing the bill, Polis noted that the bill is to honor Murphy’s life, and “of course for the 400,000 Coloradans who live with diabetes.”
If that number seems high, it isn’t. In fact, 30 million people in the U.S. live with diabetes. Of those people, more than 7 million need insulin daily to survive. Worldwide, the number is at an estimated 415 million. It’s also worth pointing out that many people may live with diabetes but not have a diagnosis.
Colorado is the first state to do this sort of cap for insulin. And, as a reminder, insulin is life-saving. Some people—whether it’s due to the cost of co-pays or a lack of insurance, period—try to ration their insulin because it’s so unaffordable. Basically, they either forego it entirely or take chances on trying to stretch dosages as far as they possibly can.
As NPR reported, this can be deadly. One man from Minnesota, for example, died from diabetic ketoacidosis at the age of 26. As his mother told NPR, he couldn’t afford $1,300 per month to treat his diabetes and thusly tried to ration his insulin. Again: This was fatal. At only 26.
The price of insulin has steadily increased in the U.S. For example, a 2016 study published in JAMA (a medical journal) found that between 2012 and 2013, the cost of a milliliter of insulin literally tripled.
This new law has an additional (and important) component. Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser (a Democrat), will investigate the cause of staggering price increases from the state’s three big insulin manufacturers. These companies include Sanofi, Novo Nordisk, and Eli Lilly. According to the bill, there’s been a 555% rise in the cost of insulin over the last 14 years, as adjusted for inflation. Governor Polis wants to find out why.
This investigation may help the people of Colorado get some well-deserved answers. It may also serve as a good precedent for people in other states to launch similar investigations, as needed.
What do you think of the new law?