Illinois Senate Democrats push bill calling for $35 monthly cap for insulin
Springfield resident Judy Johnson has had diabetes since 1997 and has been insulin-dependent for more than 20 years. A retired state employee, she has had her medication covered under state insurance which recently switched to Aetna.
Its high cost and the pain of inserting a needle once or twice a day cause many to not take insulin, Johnson said, but she is not one of them.
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"I believe it is saving my life and I intend to keep taking it," she said during a Tuesday news conference. "But it needs to be easier for people to get.”
Many of the 1.3 million Illinoisans who have diabetes and require insulin, however, are not covered by state insurance and instead have to pay rates that have skyrocketed in recent years. According to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, insulin prices have jumped by 600% over the last 20 years.
Those covered by state-regulated insurance, but not federal plans, face out-of-pocket costs of up-to $100 for a 30-day supply through a bill signed into law by Gov. JB Pritzker in 2020. Former state Sen. Andy Manar, D-Bunker Hill, was the bill's sponsor.
Two bills being considered by the Illinois General Assembly, Senate Bill 1559 and House Bill 2189 would lower that cap and expand its eligibility to $35 - the rate that several insulin manufacturers have also recently set.
The legislation from state Sen. Laura Murphy, D-Des Plaines, is among hundreds of bills listed in third reading during the chamber's deadline week to advance bills to the House. HB 2189 from state Rep. Will Guzzardi, D-Chicago, passed unanimously on the House floor last Thursday.
While nearly identical to the House version, Murphy said her bill differs from Guzzardi's since it creates a prescription insurance program administered by the Illinois Department of Public Health. This program, already administered in Utah, would permit individuals to purchase insulin at a discounted rate.
The need for the cap remains despite companies such as Eli Lilly, Novo Nordisk and Sanofi recently setting their caps at $35 for a month's supply, Murphy argued. Together, these three companies make up more than 90% of the global insulin market according to the Journal of Law and the Biosciences.
"I applaud their commitment, but I want to ensure that this protection is enshrined in law should these companies ever decide to raise their prices again," she said.
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Murphy was joined by fellow Senate Democrats who have co-sponsored the bill during the Tuesday morning news conference. State Sen. Linda Holmes, D-Aurora, said the high costs of insulin do not honor the original intention of inventor Frederick Banting, who discovered insulin 100 years ago.
Banting refused to put his name on the patent, as he felt it was "unethical" to profit off his discovery. Co-investors James Collip and Charles Bes eventually sold the patent for $1.
"People with diabetes shouldn't have to decide between groceries and their medication, but many of them have been in that position," Holmes said.
Insulin is often cited as a leading example of medicine price gouging - another item the House attempted to address last week. House Bill 3957 from state Rep. Nabeela Syed, D-Palatine, would have prevented a manufacturer or wholesale drug distributor from price gouging the sale of an essential off-patent or generic drug.
The bill did not reach the needed majorities to advance to the Senate and has since been re-referred to the House Rules Committee.
Contact Patrick Keck: 312-549-9340, email@example.com, twitter.com/pkeckreporter.
This article originally appeared on State Journal-Register: Senate Democrats decry 'unethical' insulin costs, push for new cap