Utah lawmaker’s solution to those grappling with the rising cost of insulin

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SALT LAKE COUNTY, Utah (ABC4 News) – More than 30 million Americans have diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association, and they are fighting to stay alive.

Many diabetics, including thousands of Utahns struggle to afford insulin, the life-saving drug they need.

ABC4 News met one Salt Lake County family who knows first-hand what it’s like to grapple with the ordeal.

Jeremy Ainsworth has battled type 1 diabetes ever since childhood. He was in the second grade when he found out his pancreas doesn’t produce insulin.

“One day I literally could not wake up and we went to Primary Children’s Hospital and I woke up the next day with diabetes,” Jeremy recalled.

One of Jeremy’s biggest concerns is the rising cost of insulin. Even with insurance, Jeremy and his wife Kameron pay thousands of dollars a month for the medicine.

“We’re paying more in medical insurance and medications and care right now then we pay for our home,” Kameron told ABC4’s Brittany Johnson.

The Ainsworths also pay for equipment and pump supplies needed to administer the drug.

Kameron showed ABC4’s Brittany Johnson a stack of receipts from one month, which totaled an upwards of $5,000.

“This one right here alone, just for diabetic supplies is $2,522.75. This one is $145.51. This one is $574.40,” said Kameron, going through some of the receipts.

In addition to having type 1 diabetes, Jeremy also needs a Simultaneous Pancreas and Kidney Transplant.

“I just worry about but the future holds. I’m very hopeful that I’ll get my transplant and I can be here for my family. My biggest fear is not being able to be here for them,” Jeremy said while holding back tears.

Utah Representative Norm Thurston, (R) Provo, says he has a solution to the problem. Thurston is working on a bill for the 2020 Legislative Session that will lower out-of-pocket costs for insulin.

“The best solution that I can come up with is, for people who have insurance, we can work with insurance companies so that they will cover the insulin at no co-pay, no deductible,” Thurston said.

For those who are uninsured or have a high deductible plan, Thurston wants to ensure they have access to low-cost insulin.

“For those who are not insured, who don’t have insurance, or who have a high deductible and their insurance plan won’t do it — like if you can’t get on a plan where they will do the zero zero, keep trying go find a plan that will, but if you can’t, we need to make sure that those people have access to some source of low-cost insulin.”

“My bill is looking at bulk purchasing. The state could buy enough insulin for all of them in one purchase, write one check for everybody, and we’ll bring it in, and we will distribute out at cost. So we’re not paying full retail, we’re going to pay wholesale.”

Meanwhile, Jeremy, along with the hundreds-of-thousands of other Utahns, will continue to struggle to survive.

“People are — they’re dying because they can’t take care of themselves. And it’s sad,” Kameron said.

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Glen Mills

Chief Political Correspondent

For this Beetdigger and Ute it’s an honor to be doing what he loves in his home state! Glen is an award-winning journalist, who joined the ABC4 News team in June 2013. You can catch him anchoring ABC4 News at 5 and 6, Monday through Friday. He also serves as our Senior Political Correspondent, keeping you up to date on issues that impact your life at the city, state and national level. His political reports run throughout the week, and he hosts Inside Utah Politics, Sunday mornings at 8. The Utah Headliners Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists has recognized Glen as the best government and military television reporter in the state. Before returning home to Utah, he spent 11 1/2 years developing his journalism skills in other states. He held various on-air and management positions at KPVI in Pocatello, Idaho, WGBA in Green Bay, Wisconsin and KKCO in Grand Junction, Colorado during that time. Read More...

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