We support House Bill 1019, which would cap the cost of insulin for insured Oklahomans.
On a bipartisan 32-15 vote last week, the Senate approved the legislation, sending it to Gov. Kevin Stitt for consideration.
The proposal would limit insured patients’ out-of-pocket cost for a 30-day supply of insulin to $30. A 90-day supply would be limited to $90. The bill allows insurance companies to go below those amounts, but not above it.
Honestly, we would have asked for more. The bill only applies to Oklahomans who have health insurance. Uninsured Oklahomans who need insulin, logically those who can least afford the skyrocketing price of a life-sustaining drug, get no protection.
People who depend on other critical but expensive pharmaceuticals — the insured and the uninsured — aren’t protected.
One better solution is Senate Bill 734, which would have created a maximum price list for 250 most expensive drugs. The prices would be based on the price Canada has negotiated with pharmaceutical companies. The protection would have applied to any insured Oklahomans and those covered by the state or participating ERISA plans.
SB 734, which is supported by AARP Oklahoma, missed a legislative deadline this year, but could (and should) be taken up by lawmakers next year.
As everyone knows, pharmaceuticals can be very expensive.
For those with insulin-dependent diabetes there isn’t any way to avoid the price.
Eli Lilly’s Humalog first hit the market in 1996 at a price of $21 per vial. In 2019, that same vial cost $275 and was one of the cheaper insulins available. Earlier this year, an advocate for federal action on insulin prices reported that the average retail price for a one-month supply of insulin can range from $300-$600 and that, depending on the formulation, amount needed, injection method, and insurance status of the patient, that number can hit $1,200.
Advocates for HB 1019 argue that it will push insurance companies to join the fight against high insulin prices.
Sen. Greg McCortney, who wrote SB 734 and voted against HB 1019, is correct that the bill doesn’t lower the price of insulin, it only spreads it across a bigger population, all those who carry health insurance. But that is one of the purposes of health insurance, lowering costs to the individual by broadening them.
The real solution to the high cost of pharmaceuticals probably needs to take place at the national level, and should start with allowing all federal agencies that pay for pharmaceuticals to negotiate prices with drug companies.