Last week, Colorado became the first state in the country to put a cap on insulin prices. Under the law, diabetic patients will pay no more than $100 per month for the life-sustaining drug.
The bill was signed into law by Governor Jared Polis (D) on May 22. As he signed the bill into law, Polis said, “Today, we will declare that the days of insulin price gouging are over in Colorado.”
The law does not cap how much drug manufacturers can charge for the drug, only what patients pay at the pharmacy counter. Insurance companies will be expected to pick up the remaining balance.
The law also permits Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser (D) to begin an investigation into the continuous inflation of insulin prices over the past few years.
Soaring insulin prices
Over the past 20 years, insulin prices have climbed an astounding 1,123 percent. Insulin prices tripled between 2002 and 2013, and then doubled again within the following five years. With price tags this high, it leaves many people with diabetes rationing their insulin to make it last longer, a dangerous practice that has resulted in the deaths of several people making headlines.
One reason for these eye-popping prices is pharmacy benefit manager (PBM) kickbacks or rebates. When an insurance company guarantees that a drug will be covered by certain plans, the drug manufacturer pays them an undisclosed amount of money in return. This incentivizes both parties to keep prices (and profits) high and out of reach for some of the country’s most vulnerable people.
Several lawmakers are working on solutions for the insulin price problem. Here are a few of the options.
- Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) have proposed the Safe and Affordable Drugs from Canada Act of 2019, which would permit Americans to buy prescriptions from Canadian pharmacies and bring them into the U.S. for personal use.
- Senators Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Elijah Cummings (D-MD), and Ro Khanna (D-CA) have thrown their support behind the Prescription Drug Price Relief Act, which intends to close the gap between what Americans and people from other countries pay for prescription drugs.
- Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) has proposed the Affordable Drug Manufacturing Act, which would grant the United States government the ability to produce generic versions of expensive medications like insulin.
- Senator Bobby Rush (D-IL) proposed to eliminate all out-of-pocket insulin costs for diabetic patients covered by Medicare and Medicaid within the Insulin Access for All Act of 2019.
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