Dozens plead with Utah lawmakers to cap insulin co-pays at $30

Feb 7, 2020, 6:05 AM | Updated: 11:38 am
Representative Norm Thurston (R-Provo) holds a vial of insulin as he advocates for a $30 cap on insulin co-pays during a hearing at the State Capitol. (Photo: Kelli Pierce)

SALT LAKE CITY – Dozens of people crammed into a room at the Utah State Capitol to ask lawmakers to support a new bill which would cap most insulin co-pays at $30 a person.

Those who testified before a House committee on Thursday came from all over Utah, but they all had a similar story.

People forced to pay more than $1,000 a month for the insulin they cannot live without. Some had lost their homes, while others took on second or third jobs to pay for their medication.

Ashlie Lamar from Clearfield pays over $1,100 a month for the insulin she needs while helping raise her niece and nephew.

“I can’t afford that. My husband can’t afford that, so it’s like half the time we have to choose whether we’re going to pay rent or get my insulin,” Lamar tearfully explained.

Representative Norm Thurston (R-Provo), who sponsors the bill, says the cap would work as an incentive for insurance companies to negotiate lower prices with drug manufacturers then push people towards the lowest cost medicine.

“That gives them bargaining power on the back end to tell the manufacturers, ‘Well, we’ve decided to go with your competitor. What do you have to say about that? Are you fine not having the business or do you want to lower your cost, too?'” Thurston said afterward.

Thurston also said he wants to make sure that competition will be able to drive down the cost of insulin, which is one reason the bill does not set a cap for all insulin prices.

He would also like to see the Public Employee Health Plan issue pharmacy cards to anyone needing insulin to lower those prices.

The bill would also extend an existing insulin prescription up to 90 days and allow pharmacists to switch out an insulin if there was an error in the original prescription.

Thurston says insurance companies have been supportive of the law but would like some clarifications so they do not pass on higher costs to their customers, one of the reasons lawmakers have hit the pause button on the bill for now.

But Representative Brad Daw (R-Orem) promised those testifying Thursday that lawmakers would pass the bill out of committee soon.

“We have heard you,” Daw said.

103.5 The Arrow’s John Smith attended a hearing on Utah’s Capitol Hill in a hearing on the price of insulin. 2/6/2020 (Photo John Smith)

103.5 The Arrow host Jon Smith, a Type 1 diabetic himself, was among those testifying before the committee. He pointed to his own experiences having to pay out-of-pocket for the life-saving medication.

“For insulin alone, I am paying $400 to $500 a month,” he said on Jeff Caplan’s Afternoon Show Thursday afternoon. “With all my testing and supplies, and other medications related to diabetes, I pay about $2,000 a month.”

Smith said these costs are after insurance, acting as his co-pay.

Smith said he testified before the committee, telling them his case wasn’t special. It’s something that hundreds of people have to deal with.

“[The bill] was very well-received overall,” he said. “There were a lot of people just like me that were testifying on its behalf.”

Smith said he has confidence the bill will pass, and if it won’t — one very similar to it will.

You can listen to the full interview below:

KSL NewsRadio recently focused a series of reports on high prescription drug prices. Costly Cure: Struggling with Soaring Prescription Prices is a five-part series.

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Dozens plead with Utah lawmakers to cap insulin co-pays at $30