Costly gamble: Navigating insulin prices in the Valley

Special Report

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTWO/WAWV) – Many states are jumping on a growing trend that could help save the lives of people living with diabetes, which in America was more than 30 million people in 2017.

Legislation is being implemented across the nation that would place a price cap on the cost of insulin.

Illinois recently passed a $100 cap on monthly insulin costs. Virginia passed a $30 monthly co-pay cap on insulin this month and Colorado passed a $100 monthly cap at the beginning of the year.

Most recently, Minnesota passed an insulin emergency assistance program. That program is called the Alec Smith Emergency Insulin Act in honor of Alec Smith who died in 2017 at 26 after rationing his insulin.

So what’s being done in the state of Indiana?

One local health worker said she sees diabetic costs ranging from $300 to $1,000 a month for some people.

With no insulin cost cap in Indiana, local facilities and lawmakers are doing what they can to make a difference.

“Before, you’d put it off as long as you could to go get your prescription, or even miss a few doses,” Madonna Porter, a Type 2 diabetic, said.

Taking insulin injections every day is not optional for many people living with diabetes. It’s what protects blood sugar levels from rising and causing major health risks. Some complications associated with diabetes can lead to amputation of limbs, blindness or even ketoacidosis which could lead to a coma or death.

It’s a risk many diabetics are forced to take considering the cost of the insulin.

“It was so expensive, my insulin was costing $600 to $800 a month,” Porter explained.

She was diagnosed with T2 five years ago. At that time, her blood sugar levels were in the 600s. A person’s blood sugar without diabetes is normally below 100.

“Mine in the 300s was normal for me,” she said. “Other people would be in the hospital.”

Madonna Porter talks life with T2 diabetes: Symptoms indicating the disease, managing financial life or “learn to go without” considering insulin expenses

Porter now takes one long-acting and one short-acting insulin every day.

There are many contributing costs for diabetic care. You have to have pen needles, lancets for your glucose reader and test strips.

For Porter, diabetes wasn’t her only medical expense.

“All my medicines was running like $1,400 a month, and we’re on social security and it hurts.”

This past summer she learned about the Valley Professionals Community Health Center in Terre Haute.

“They have to decide what they’re going to put their money to. Whether it’s toward health care or putting food on the table,” Tameika Paige, health care worker at Valley Professionals Community Health Center, said.

Paige said last year alone the office helped over 1,700 diabetic patients mostly with patient assistance.

Health worker Tameika Paige talks what she sees with Diabetic patients and insulin costs, why we’ve seen a rise in insulin expenses and Valley Health Professionals Community Health Center

The program is income based, but accepts any patient and urges everyone to have insurance. It works directly with insulin manufacturers to help patients receive it at a lower cost, Tameika said, noting that sometimes, it’s even free.

For Porter, it knocked her $600 – $800 monthly insulin cost to around $30.

According to Paige, many people don’t know that programs like this one exist.

“Just to see the expression on their face like, ‘wow I did not know that actually existed.’ Especially with patients that have been dealing with these problems for years,” Paige said.

Over the years, insulin manufacturers have pushed newer insulin on the market which is why consumers see an increase in price, Paige explained.

Healthcare workers like Paige do exist, and are even able to lift heavy burdens on people such as Porter and her husband, Frank.

“She’s a guardian angel, I think,” Frank said of Paige.

However, it is still an issue for diabetics around the state. This is something that Indiana Senator Jon Ford heard during his door-to-door campaign in 2018.

“I heard from so many people how the co-pay cost for insulin is astronomical,” Ford said.

A senate bill Ford co-authored has made its way through the statehouse that would eliminate the need for a prescription to buy insulin. Ford said Indiana was one of the few states around the nation that requires an insulin bill.

“You would be able to order it online, maybe Canada or other places where the prices may be cheaper,” he explained

Senator Jon Ford says new insulin cost saving program launched by Eli Lilly compliments a bill he co-authored nicely

Ford said on a bigger scale, lawmakers are trying to grasp why pharmaceutical costs are skyrocketing. But a program launched in Indiana by Eli Lilly would cap insulin prescription costs at $150, which he says would work nicely with the bill he authored. The bill goes into effect January 1, 2021.

One lawmaker attempted to amend the bill. She hoped to instead cap insulin costs in Indiana. Click here for the bill’s process.

Ford said he plans to file a bill that would cap monthly insulin costs, but he hasn’t yet.

There are multiple locations to Valley Professional Community Health Centers, to find the closest to you, click here.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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