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Committee sends bill to tackle insulin costs to Senate

SHARE Committee sends bill to tackle insulin costs to Senate

Rep. Norm Thurston, R-Provo, listens as Stephanie Arceneaux, who is diabetic, speaks in support of HB207, which aims to make insulin more affordable, during a hearing before the House Health and Human Services Committee in the Senate Building at the Capitol complex in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Feb. 6, 2020.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Legislation attempting to tackle the rising cost of insulin soared through the Senate Health and Human Services Committee Monday morning.

Following emotional testimony from people who’ve experienced the impacts of rising insulin costs, the committee voted unanimously to send the bill to the full Senate with a favorable recommendation. Having already passed through the House with a vote of 69-3, HB207, just needs to clear the full Senate.

The cost for insulin had risen astronomically in the past years, leaping from around $20 in 2002 to nearly $350 today.

Recognizing this, bill sponsor Rep. Norm Thurston, R-Provo, introduced the legislation in hopes of combatting the issue by giving pharmacists the ability to dispense up to a 90 day supply on an emergency basis even if the patient’s prescription is for a different brand, expired, or out of refills as well as created four pathways for insurers to comply with a low cost plan option.

Many patients ration their supplies to combat the high costs, Thurston said, but doing so can have dangerous consequences and could even result in a patient’s death.

“It turns out that 1 in 4 people are rationing,” Thurston said. “That rationing causes health problems which are very expensive, so if you undo the rationing you undo the additional health costs and the program essentially pays for itself.”

Thurston explained that many people go to the pharmacy and are unable to get their prescription filled because it’s expired, they are out of refills or it’s the wrong drug for their insurance and isn’t covered.

The legislation would give pharmacists the ability to issue a 90-day emergency supply regardless.

Also, Thurston said many insurance companies have told him they are in the process of changing pharmaceutical coverage to make it more affordable. For those that don’t willingly change things themselves, the legislation would introduce a $30 cap or seek a guarantee that patients pay no more than the discount price with a $100 cap.

The bill would also direct the Insurance Department to conduct a study on insulin pricing.

Kelly Atkinson, director at the Utah Health Insurance Association, also praised the idea of the study because they want transparency, though remained neutral on the bill.

“You’ve seen insulin go from $25 a vile 12 years ago to now it’s $350 a vile,” Atkinson said. “Several of you as senators have asked why. We want to know the same question.”