Utahns plead for help on capitol hill regarding the rising cost of insulin

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SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 News) – The Health and Human Services Committee listened to emotional testimony on Thursday, from Utahns pleading for something to be done about the rising cost of insulin.

“It’s scary not knowing how expensive it is and not knowing if you’ll have food on your table or being able to have insulin,” Sydney, a 15-year-old Type 1 diabetic, testified.

Representative Norm Thurston, R-Provo, is calling on the legislature to pass House Bill 207.

If it’s passed, the bill would drastically drop the cost of insulin. Copays for the life-saving drug would only be $30 for a month’s supply, regardless of the amount or type of insulin needed.

On Thursday, the Utah County representative stopped short of calling the bill a price cap.

“The other states have gone with a simple solution, which is to tell the health plans, you can’t charge anybody more than this. That’s good for patients in a way but it’s not even a bandaid, it’s just like a little bit of anexeptic spray on a wound because it makes you feel good but it doesn’t solve anything about the underlying problem. It doesn’t solve the problems of rising costs, it doesn’t introduce competition, it doesn’t encourage innovation, it doesn’t do any of those things. So, I set out to come up with something that is much better for the market than a simple cap.”

“So what do you call it?” ABC4’s Brittany Johnson asked Thurston.

“I would call this an incentive for health plans to provide low cost and no cost healthcare to their patients.”

No one at the hearing spoke in opposition of the bill, but Kelly Atkinson from the Utah Health Insurance Association, says some of the language is concerning.

“We want to make sure that we draft the legislation so that it doesn’t encourage the cost of insulin to go up. Because right now it only impacts health insurers. It does nothing to impact the manufactures. In 2002, a vile of insulin cost $20. You’ve heard what it costs now (around $350). There’s nothing in this legislation that curtails that. So if we have to hold our cost down, we’re good actors and we’re doing that right now, what is going to happen to the cost of insulin and whose going to be paying for that? I’ll tell you who pays for it; the uninsured and the fully insured. But the fully insured are not locked in. They can go to self-insured and get outside of that. So that’s what we’re working the good representative on. We would like a day to work that out before we go to prime time. The representative has been great to work with.”

Representative Thurston’s bill was held in committee so he can make “technical changes.”

“One, we want to provide a maximum benefit to the patients, and two, we want to make sure that we don’t inadvertently mess up the competition and drive up costs,” Thurston explained.

Thurston expects the bill to be heard again in committee, next week.

The bill doesn’t only drop the price of insulin. To read the bill in its entirety, click here.

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