Letter: ND needs insulin price cap, state level Rx action matters
Ellen Schafer writes, "Medications don’t work if you can't afford them. That’s why I am actively engaged in AARP’s fight to make sure every American can afford the prescriptions they need to stay healthy."
In 2020, when AARP asked 50+ voters about their experience with prescription drug prices, 60% said drug prices are unreasonable and many said they have or will need to make trade-offs to afford their medications. That is especially common for the 58,335 North Dakotans who have diabetes. And if that number doesn’t catch your attention, according the 2022 North Dakota Diabetes Report, 16,281 adults had undiagnosed diabetes and another 177,618 had pre-diabetes. Additionally, the fastest growing diabetic age group is age 45-50.
This disease is costly and getting more expensive as our population ages. I’m retired and I’m diabetic. Recently my insurer stopped covering my continuous insulin pump supplies and so now I have to order them through the mail and pay out of pocket. I hear a lot of stories about people struggling to afford insulin. People who have retired but have to start working again, people who ration their insulin – risking their lives – because they can’t afford their medication and rent or utilities.
I’m very happy that at the national level, Medicare now caps 30-day supplies of insulin at $35. I’m also pleased that some big drug companies are putting a cap on a few of their insulin products. But that doesn’t mean the state doesn’t play a part in this battle.
Of those 58,335 North Dakotans with diabetes, 2,843 with Medicare Part D are seeing their insulin costs drop to $35/month under the new law. But many more need help, and not all diabetics use the insulin brands affected by the limited action from drug companies. The rest often carry an overwhelming financial burden, and even when insured like I am, may suffer from inconsistent coverage that makes insulin costly.
While I’m with AARP in supporting more comprehensive efforts, making insulin more affordable is something legislators can do yet this session. Senate Bill 2140 would cap the price of a 30-day supply of insulin for state employees at $25. Co-payments for related medical supplies, including blood glucose meters, insulin pen needles and syringes, would also be capped at $25 per 30 days. The bill then directs the PERS Board to study the impacts and bring forward a bill in 2025 to apply this cap to everyone. This would be a big step forward.
Medications don’t work if you can't afford them. That’s why I am actively engaged in AARP’s fight to make sure every American can afford the prescriptions they need to stay healthy. And, that’s why I will be asking my local legislators to support SB 2140, and you should, too.
Ellen Schafer is an AARP North Dakota Executive Council member
This letter does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Forum's editorial board nor Forum ownership.