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More States Consider Price Caps on Insulin

DENVER, June 7 (UPI) -- A new law in Colorado capping the price of insulin for insured patients at $100 per month has generated interest in other states because the price of the life-saving diabetes drug has spiked, lawmakers said.

Gov. Jared Polis signed HB 1216 in May, declaring "[T]he days of insulin price-gouging are over in Colorado." Soon afterward, Colorado lawmakers received inquiries from lawmakers in California, Minnesota and Pennsylvania asking about the new law, sponsor state Rep. Dylan Roberts, D-Avon, said. 

Roberts' brother, Murphy, died in 2016 at age 22 of complications caused by Type 1 diabetes.

"This is a first step, for [affordable] insulin. I know it's a short-term Band-Aid for some people, and we're going to continue to work for long-term solutions," Roberts told UPI. 

The new law, which goes into effect Jan. 1, does not cover Medicaid patients or people who do not have insurance. But it does help those patients who haven't met a high health insurance deductible or out-of-pocket costs and face insulin bills that can exceed $1,600 per month.

Between 2014 and 2017, the cost of insulin spiked by 45 percent, and over the last 14 years, the price of insulin has risen by 555 percent, adjusted for inflation, according to language in the Colorado law.

Insurance companies are expected to absorb the extra costs of the medication for those patients who qualify.

The insurance industry was officially neutral on the bill, Jessica Morgan, legislative director of the Colorado Association of Health Plans, told UPI. But insurance companies had concerns that the bill doesn't address the actual costs of insulin and "hides the cost from the consumer," Morgan said.

She also said insurance companies worried the new law could set a precedent that would require mandatory price caps for other life-saving medications to treat chronic conditions such as Parkinson's disease or multiple sclerosis, and that would drive up the cost of insurance for everyone.

More than 30 million Americans have been diagnosed with diabetes, and 1.5 million are diagnosed every year. Complications from diabetes can lead to blindness, amputations of feet and hands and problems with the kidneys and heart. Diabetes is the seventh-most-common cause of death in the United States, according to the American Diabetes Association.

Although the drug has been manufactured for almost 100 years, no generic version is on the market. Insulin no longer is derived from animals, but created in labs as a "biosynthetic" made with recombinant DNA technology and is indistinguishable from human insulin.


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