Insulin prices have tripled over the past decade. Diabetics like me are now being forced to choose between paying for groceries or our medication.

Insulin prices have tripled over the past decade. Diabetics like me are now being forced to choose between paying for groceries or our medication.
Why Is Insulin Expensive
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  • The price of insulin has increased drastically over the past 20 years.

  • Diabetics often ration their insulin, with deadly results, because of the skyrocketing price.

  • Biden has proposed a measure that would let Medicare negotiate lower prices for medications.

  • Melissa McEwen is a diabetic from Helena, Montana.

  • This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author.

  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

At 15, I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. That was 21 years ago, when a vial of insulin cost $25. Today, that same vial can cost up to $600.

Without health insurance, supplies to treat my diabetes would cost more than $1200 a month. If I had to pay that out of pocket each month, I would end up rationing my insulin and potentially dying from this disease, a fate many people have succumbed to.

I was born and raised in Helena, Montana where I still live with my husband and stepson. I work at the Department of Corrections and receive incredible insurance through the state. This coverage makes the cost of my health care manageable, but that hasn't always been the case.

Back when I was first diagnosed, the technology to monitor your blood sugar level was not as advanced as it is today. As a result, my eyesight worsened. Diabetics go through vision changes and problems --- it just comes with the territory. To save my eyesight, I get injections in both eyes every three months. Even with great insurance, each eye injection costs $500 totalling $4,000 a year. This treatment prevents my retinas from detaching, saving my eyesight and allowing me to continue working. It is as essential as my insulin.

About 10 years later, I worked at a bank that didn't have great insurance. I had to pay a $3,000 deductible out of pocket before insurance would start to cover the cost of any of my medication. That means that for two months every year, an entire paycheck would go to pay for my diabetic supplies. Thankfully, we had my husband's paycheck to draw on. I held a second job to help pay for necessities, since most of my income was going towards insulin and medical supplies.

This past decade alone, insulin prices have tripled in the United States, despite the costs of producing the drug remaining virtually unchanged. I think back sometimes to a childhood friend who rationed his insulin. He was always sick, because he couldn't afford his treatment.

But it's not just diabetics who struggle to afford their life-saving medications. Three in 10 Americans don't take their medicine as prescribed due to the costs. We live in the richest country in the world, so why are there so many people working full time who can't afford the medication they need to live?

President Biden's Build Back Better plan will allow Medicare to negotiate lower drug prices, having an industry-wide impact reducing the cost of prescription drugs. These negotiated prices would be available to private healthcare payers and businesses as well. This will save households $120 billion and private businesses $43 billion over a decade. Diabetics could save thousands of dollars each year on insulin alone. For many Americans, these savings could be the difference between life and death.

My journey has not been easy, but it is much better than what many diabetics face. I've never gone without my basic needs covered, and that is a luxury that a lot of diabetics don't have.

Nearly nine out of 10 Americans agree that the government should be able to negotiate lower drug prices. It just makes sense. Regardless of whether you are a Republican or a Democrat, this is good policy and the right thing to do.

Diabetics face a daily struggle: Counting carbs, adjusting insulin for everything we eat, waking up with low or high blood sugar, which can cause us to go into a diabetic coma. We should not have to also worry about whether we can afford our insulin. Diabetics have been abused by pharmaceutical companies for far too long, it's time that Congress stand up for us.

Read the original article on Business Insider