Second semester started off this week with a three day seminar in Washington DC focusing on nutrition and healthcare policy. On Wednesday evening I returned to Chapel Hill exhausted but inspired to continue my studies and to be more politically active around the issues that impact the field of nutrition, patient care, and diabetes.
Ironically on Wednesday while we were listening to a panel on Medicare and reimbursement, across town representative Bobby Rush, a democrat from Illinois, introduced the Insulin For All Act in the U.S. House of Representatives. This bill aims to increase access to insulin by eliminating the cost-sharing requirement for patients on Medicare and Medicaid. Cost sharing includes deductibles and copayments, so basically costs that must be paid out-of-pocket by individuals on Medicare and Medicaid. By eliminating these cost-sharing requirements, insulin could be covered in full by Medicare and Medicaid, greatly reducing monthly out-of-pocket costs for patients with diabetes who are on Medicare or Medicaid.
Unfortunately, this bill doesn’t address the absurdly high cost of insulin for those not on Medicare or Medicaid, meaning that it doesn’t really help those on private insurance plans or those without health insurance, but it is a step towards reducing the financial strain of diabetes.
Insulin, as many of you know, is ridiculously expensive, and the cost of some brands of insulin has risen over 500% in the last 10 years, which is ridiculous considering the growing number of people in the United States that rely on insulin to stay alive. As of September 2018, the cost of insulin ranged anywhere from $0.28 per unit to $0.83 per unit, which adds up pretty quickly depending on how many units of insulin you require per day. This rise in insulin prices is a huge barrier to health, and a number of people with diabetes have been forced to ration their insulin, increasing risk of diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) and death.
Just last month, US FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb released a statement, which detailed new measures designed to increase competition in the insulin market with the goal of reducing insulin prices. One proposed measure is to increase the availability biosimilar insulins (think generic insulin), hopefully reducing costs by increasing competition.
Interested in getting involved?
Reach out to your local representative.
T1 International has some great resources for calling or writing your representative.
For more information on how you can get involved, Beyond Type 1 has a great list of resources for those who might be struggling to afford their insulin as well as those wanting to get involved in advocacy.