A new Colorado law will ensure that those living with diabetes will spend no more than $100 per month on insulin, making it the first state to limit the cost of an increasingly expensive medication millions of Americans rely on.
More than 30 million Americans have diabetes, and some 7.4 million of them must take insulin every day to live, according to the American Diabetes Association. Although insulin was discovered nearly a century ago, costs continue to rise. A January report from the Health Care Cost Institute, a nonpartisan research organization, found the price of an insulin prescription roughly doubled nationwide from 2012 to 2016.
The bill Gov. Jared Polis (D) signed into law Wednesday will take effect in January 2020, the Denver Post reported, capping monthly co-payments and requiring insurance companies to absorb the additional cost. The law does not limit what insulin manufacturers can charge insurers.
The legislation was introduced by state Rep. Dylan Roberts (D), who lost his younger brother, Murphy, to type 1 diabetes, CBS Denver reported. Polis said he signed the bill “to honor Murphy’s memory, and of course for the 400,000 Coloradans who live with diabetes.”
The move came amid increased scrutiny of rising insulin costs, which have drawn the attention of Congress. In a hearing of the House Energy subcommittee on oversight and investigations, Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) emphasized the life-or-death nature of the issue.
“We have been hearing stories and reading disturbing news reports for too long,” DeGette said. “People are skipping doses, failing to pay rent or buy groceries, and even resorting to an insulin ‘black market’ in order to afford their insulin.”
The Colorado bill cites a 555 percent rise in the cost of insulin, adjusted for inflation, over the past 14 years. The new law also tasks Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser (D) with investigating the cause of the recent price increase, focusing on the three largest insulin manufacturers, Eli Lilly, Novo Nordisk, and Sanofi.
Bill Johnson, a senior researcher at the Health Care Cost Institute and a co-author of the January report, was cautiously optimistic about the Colorado law. He emphasized that he was speaking for himself and not his employer.
“In general, I think anything that can be done to help ease the burden of out-of-pocket costs associated with insulin is probably a good thing,” Johnson said, but he added the caveat that “part of what the bill will do is to shift costs from patients back to insurers, and insurers may try to recoup that in some other way.”