Colorado has led the way in reducing the cost of life-saving prescription drugs. We faced it against special interests that tried to stop us, and we did it in a bipartisan way, because people’s health and financial security are more important than politics. Now is the time for the nation to follow our example.
In 2019, I drafted the nation’s first bill that capped the cost of insulin copays at $100 per month. I enlisted bipartisan sponsors in the Colorado House and Senate, where it passed both houses and was then signed into law by the Governor – making history not just in Colorado, but across the country. country.
In 2021, I returned to the Capitol with a follow-up bill to ensure the uninsured or underinsured can access the insulin they need to survive at an affordable $50 per month. Again, this bill passed the legislature with bipartisan support and was signed into law by the governor.
We passed these historic laws not because of politics, but because they save money and lives. Insulin is really the poster child for soaring prescription drug prices in the country, and this increase is hurting people’s health and bank accounts – for no good reason.
A vial of insulin cost around $21 in 1996. In 2019, that same vial of insulin (without changing the chemical composition) cost over $300. Since most type 1 diabetics and many type 2 diabetics require several vials of insulin per month, people were paying between $600 and $2,000 per month for a drug they needed to survive, even though the cost of insulin production remained unchanged from the 1990s.
For diabetics, insulin is like oxygen – without it, you die. So, Coloradians and Americans have been held hostage to price increases without any recourse.
Because of these excessive prices, more than 40% of diabetics in Colorado tragically admitted to rationing their insulin in 2020. Fortunately, Coloradons no longer need to pay exorbitant prices just to survive because our legislators – regardless the party – got together and passed my insulin bills. Additionally, we laid the foundation for similar price controls for other life-saving prescription drugs by adopting the Prescription Drug Affordability Board in 2021. Now is the time for our model of saving money and lives to go national.
Fortunately, national leaders are taking notice. Members of Congress from both parties began advocating for an insulin price cap this year and President Biden even said in the 2022 State of the Union address, “Let’s cap the cost insulin at $35 a month.
One in 10 Americans has diabetes. There are too many Americans experiencing the difficulties that come with living with diabetes. With 78% of Americans supporting proposals to make insulin more affordable, there is clearly an appetite and an acute need for insulin pricing reform.
Fortunately, nearly 20 states have begun tackling this issue independent of political parties, many with Republican legislatures and governors. Given the popularity and bipartisan appeal of this issue, its ability to save money and lives, and the example we’ve set in Colorado, there’s no consistent reason why not every state in the country – as well as the federal government – can follow our example.
We even set an example for lawmakers in Washington, DC to aspire to. Don’t take it from me, take it from Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., who prioritizes making insulin more affordable for his constituents. He says of this goal: “Hundreds of thousands of Louisianans depend on life-saving medications like insulin…and 12% of adults in our state have diabetes…Our people need access to affordable medications.
On a similar note across the aisle, Senators Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., and ours, Michael Bennet, D-Colo., are sponsoring a bill to cap the price of insulin . Respectfully, I encourage Republicans and Democrats in Washington, D.C. to follow our lead in putting aside political differences and working together to create legislation that makes insulin and other prescription drugs accessible to Americans. .
Will there be relentless opposition from big pharma throughout this endeavor? Absoutely. Will business leaders, pharmacy benefit managers and insurance companies stop at nothing to preserve the status quo? You bet. But I ask anyone considering tackling this issue: If Colorado can be a game-changer when it comes to insulin and drug pricing reform, why can’t you? We just showed the whole country that it can be done.
If you would like to know if you or someone you know qualifies for the Insulin Affordability Program, please visit DOI.Colorado.gov/for-consumers/consumer-resources/insulin-affordability-program.
As always, please contact me about this topic or any other at 970-846-3054 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Representative Dylan Roberts serves Routt County and Eagle County in the Colorado State House.