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Bill to cap insulin costs at $35 per month appears poised to pass House

Published: Mar. 31, 2022 at 11:32 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - The rising costs of drugs like insulin have forced thousands of Virginians who have diabetes to make tough choices between trying to afford life-saving medication or going without it altogether. It’s a problem clinical investigator Dr. Aaron Hartman says he sees more of in his patients.

“It’s a problem I’ve had with patients for the past 10 years,” Hartman said. “I had a diabetic patient who had COVID, and when he got out of the hospital, we started him on a long-acting medication, which was great for stabilizing his sugars. But the problem was that he could no longer afford it, so he ran out of his medication three weeks ago. He came to see me, and we’re going to start him out on an OK drug.”

But Hartman says the OK drugs aren’t just less effective; they’re also pretty expensive. The American Diabetes Association says the cost of life-saving insulin nearly tripled between 2002 and 2013.

“They run anywhere from $300 to $400 with insurance, and without insurance, it can run $800 or $900 a month, and the average person cannot afford that,” Hartman said. “The system itself actually limits access to affordable generics.”

That’s why legislators are trying to change the system.

This week, Senator Tim Kaine announced that he had co-sponsored a bill introduced by Georgia Senator Raphael Warnock, called ‘The Affordable Insulin Now Act,’ which would cap insulin at $35 per month for people with private insurance and Medicare.

“No one should have to choose between paying for their medication and keeping food on the table,” Kaine said in a statement. “I’m proud to co-sponsor legislation that would cap out-of-pocket costs of insulin and help working families make ends meet.”

The House also appears ready to pass similar legislation to cap the out-of-pocket costs for insulin to just $35, but support on the Senate side remains unclear.

“I hope this legislation gets us one step forward,” Hartman said.

But Hartman also fears this legislation may not be as effective as it intended.

“How is it actually going to play out in patient care?” Hartman asked. “Is it going to be accessible to the up-to-date research-proven therapies, or is it just going to be cheap access to cheap insulin? That’s the question I have.”

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said he supports both efforts to lower the cost of insulin and wants a vote after Easter.

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