Kentuckians with diabetes hope to see federal cap on insulin costs

Published: Apr. 1, 2022 at 11:19 PM EDT
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WASHINGTON (WKYT) -- Federal legislation known as the Affordable Insulin Now Act would cap the monthly cost of insulin for insured patients, and would save Kentuckians hundreds, if not more, a month.

Kentucky passed a similar bill last year that caps costs at $30 a month, but that only covers Kentuckians with state insurance plans. The legislation was backed by Rep. Danny Bentley (R-Russell) and Rep. Patti Minter (D-Bowling Green) and passed easily through the General Assembly.

The federal plan, which caps insulin for insured Americans at $35, is not getting the same backing. All six of Kentucky’s republican congressmen voted against the measure.

In a statement to WKYT, Congressman Hal Rogers says he cosponsored an alternative bill to reduce insulin costs, as well as reducing other prescription drug prices. Roger say “the Democrat-controlled House blocked that bill to advance their own bill” and that it was written to “advance socialized medicine.”

His full statement to WKYT reads, “U.S. Rep. Harold “Hal” Rogers cosponsored the bipartisan Lower Costs, More Cures Act, H.R. 19 to lower the costs of all prescription drugs, including insulin. However, House Democrats blocked the Republican-led bill, and passed their own version, H.R. 6388 to only lower insulin costs and to move toward government-controlled healthcare.

“Kentucky ranks 8th in the country for the highest rate of diabetes. Likewise, Eastern Kentucky has some of the highest rates of health disparities in the country, including obesity, heart disease and cancer. Our people need access to affordable prescription medication across the board, including insulin. Unfortunately, Democrats chose to cherry-pick insulin as leverage to implement socialized medicine in their bill,” said Congressman Rogers. “Democrats are more concerned about grabbing media headlines than they are working with Republicans to make healthcare more affordable for the American people. We need to protect patient choice and improve Medicare Part D for our seniors.”

The Republican bill would cap out-of-pocket Medicare Part D costs for seniors, improve drug price transparency, and limit government control over healthcare, but it was blocked by the Democrat-led House.

The U.S. Senate is also working on a separate bill related to prescription drug prices.”

Lisa Smith has been living with Type One Diabetes since she was twelve. It has been a costly part of her life for over 35 years.

“You can pay a lot of money out of pocket every month to insure that your prescription cost are lower, or you can pay less out of pocket every month, but then your prescription costs are higher.”

“It has the potential to make a massive difference for lots of people,” said Ben Chandler, CEO of Foundation for a Health Kentucky. “I mean in many cases, it’s the difference between life and death.”

The group advocates for affordable healthcare for Kentuckians, especially in areas of the state where options are scarce, and costs are high.

“There are health issues in eastern Kentucky which I think we are all familiar with,” said Chandler. “But diabetes is one of the chief ones. So anything that we can do to lower the costs of these insulin drugs.”

Medication Lisa says she’s thankful she can afford, knowing so many others can’t.

“It’s heartbreaking, and it’s problematic,” said Smith. “If you require insulin to live, you should have affordable access to it.”

In a statement to WKYT, Congressman James Comer explained his “no” vote saying, “Congressman Comer opposed the latest Washington Democrat price control plan because it fails to get to the root problem of rising prescription drug costs. Under this bill, drugmakers will continue to rake in enormous profits, with the burden of paying simply shifting more onto taxpayers through rising insurance premiums and government spending.

Rather than pursuing government price controls, Congress should follow Congressman Comer’s lead in taking on Pharmacy Benefit Managers, the unnecessary middlemen whose anti-competitive practices drive up costs for patients. Opening up the market will add transparency to drug costs, promote medical innovation, and ultimately be much more effective in reducing costs for drugs like Insulin.”

Congressman Andy Barr’s office says, “Congressman Barr is committed to enacting healthcare solutions that will decrease costs, increase access, and protect individuals with pre-existing conditions. That is why he is a co-sponsor of the Lower Costs, More Cures Act, which would lower costs and provide more drug price transparency while ensuring the United States remains a leader in health care innovation and care.

“By contrast, H.R. 6833 under the guise of “cheaper” insulin, will raise costs for patients through higher healthcare premiums or cost-sharing and fewer generic insulins on the market. Federal government price controls, like this bill, are never effective as they stifle innovation and ration care.”

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