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Proposed bill aims to lower cost of insulin

State lawmakers are taking aim at the high price of insulin with a bill proposing to cap monthly insulation costs.

HARRISBURG, Pa. — State lawmakers are taking aim at the high price of insulin with a bill proposing to cap monthly insulation costs.

The Affordable Insulin Act (Senate Bill 957) would amend The Insurance Company Law of 1921 to state that a health insurance policy providing prescription coverage of insulin may not impose a copayment, coinsurance or deductible of more than $30 per 30-day supply of insulin.

Insulin prices are more than eight times higher in the United States than in 32 high-income comparison nations combined, according to a 2020 RAND Corporation study. The average price per unit across all types of insulin in the United States was $98.70, according to the study.

“Why are the costs going up for an old medication that’s been around for a century, when in other countries, like in Europe and Australia and elsewhere, people aren’t paying out of pocket as much?” said State Sen. Doug Mastriano (R-Franklin), co-sponsor of the bill.

Not only are prices high, but they continue to rise. The cost of the four most popular types of insulin have tripled in the last decade, according to a 2019 study published in the Journal of American Medical Association.

The proposed legislation would affect the 1.4 million Pennsylvanians—11 percent of the state population— that have diabetes, according to the memo introducing the legislation.

Lindsey Fetter, of Ephrata, has been one of them since she was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at 11 years old.

Adjusting to the diagnosis came with challenges, like learning to take her blood pressure, measure food and inject insulin. But Fetter said the greatest challenge came later, when she grew up and took a job without health insurance.

“I basically was getting samples from my doctor’s office until I got a job with insurance because I couldn’t afford it,” Fetter said. “It was more than what I paid for rent.”

Insulin—the medicine Fetter needed to stay alive—was too expensive. For a period of time she lived off drug samples, sometimes stretching her supply to last longer.

“You can’t live without it. I think it’s very wrong to make somebody figure out how they’re going to live and whether they can afford it,” she said.

A bill limiting insulin payments to $100 per month was proposed in 2019 but never passed the legislature. 

Mastriano said he’s confident the Affordable Insulin Act has enough support to become law.

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