Cap on insulin costs takes effect, but for fewer than 1/3 of Kentuckians; Biden bill would cover them all but its fate is in doubt

Reps. Patti Minter and Danny Bentley saw Gov. Andy Beshear sign their insulin price limit bill into law last March. (Screenshot)

Jan. 1 was the effective date of a new Kentucky law that caps at $30 the cost of a 30-day supply of insulin. But it affects fewer than a third of Kentucky diabetics, so “advocates and others in the commonwealth’s diabetic community are pushing for lawmakers to do more to open access to a medication that thousands in the Bluegrass State need to survive,” reports Lucas Aulbach of the Louisville Courier Journal.

The law, passed last year, applies to people covered by group health-insurance plans, those regulated only by the state, plans on the Kynect exchange, and state employees. It does not apply to those who have health insurance through their employers; or through sources like Medicare or Tricare, which covers U.S. military-service members and veterans.

“The problem is that a state can’t pass a law that would affect anything that’s federally regulated, and most people have health insurance that’s federally regulated,” advocate Sarah Ferguson told Aulbach. Her daughter was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at age 14 more than 10 years ago.

President Biden’s “Build Back Better” funding bill would cap all insulin co-payments at $35 a month, but it is stalled in the Senate and even if it passes, negotiations to accomplish that might remove the provision. “People need to let their Congress members know that this isn’t OK, that people need $35 for a 30-day supply,” said Rep. Patti Minter, D-Bowling Green, a sponsor of the new law.
Minter and co-sponsor Danny Bentley, R-Russell, have filed a bill to let people without health insurance those and people whose insurance has recently dropped insulin from coverage to get an emergency 30-day or 12-month supply at a reduced cost. “Similar bills have been passed in Minnesota and several other states under the name ‘Alec’s Law,’ in honor of Alec Smith, a 26-year-old Minnesota man who died in 2017 while rationing insulin he could no longer afford,” Aulbach reports.

Meanwhile, many people affected by the law are getting a significant break. “A single dose of insulin which cost between $2 and $7 to manufacture could sell for an average wholesale price of around $300 per vial,” Gov. Andy Beshear said when he signed the Bentley-Minter bill into law last March.

More than half a million Kentuckians have diabetes, and Kentucky ranks seventh-highest in the U.S. for diabetes prevalence. more than one in four insulin-dependent people ration insulin due to cost, according to Angela Lautner, legislative lead for the Kentucky #insulin4all advocacy group.

The Bentley-Minter law requires health plans to provide the equipment, supplies and outpatient training and education needed to help diabetics stay healthy.
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