New Colorado law tackles insulin prices

By: - July 10, 2021 4:45 am

A syringe used to administer insulin. (John Campbell/Public domain)

People with Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes need prescription insulin to regulate their blood sugar levels. Without access to the medication, diabetes can prove fatal.

But rising costs of insulin make the life-saving medication difficult or impossible to obtain for many people, even those with public or private health insurance. Colorado lawmakers, who’ve worked the issue before, attacked it from another angle this session with House Bill 21-1307.

The bill, which Democratic Gov. Jared Polis signed into law Tuesday, strengthens an earlier state law that established a $100 cap on a 30-day supply of insulin for people with state-regulated health insurance plans. HB-1307 specifies that the existing $100 cap applies to the patient’s entire supply for the month — even if they have multiple prescriptions.

Another provision allows people who meet certain qualifications to obtain one emergency 30-day insulin supply per year, at a cost no greater than $35.

Finally, the law creates an insulin affordability program, starting in January 2022, within the state’s Division of Insurance for people who don’t have insurance plans where the $100 cap already applies. Program participants will be able to purchase prescription insulin for no more than $50 per 30-day supply.

“Colorado has led the way nationally to lower the cost of insulin and help ensure every person in our state can access the life-saving medication they need,” Rep. Dylan Roberts — an Avon Democrat who sponsored HB-1307 with Sen. Kerry Donovan, a Democrat from Vail — said in a Tuesday statement. “The bill builds on the progress we’ve made to guarantee that regardless of insurance status, Coloradans with diabetes will be able to get insulin at an affordable price when they need it.”

Two years ago, Roberts sponsored House Bill 19-1216, which instituted the original $100 monthly cap on insulin costs and directed the state attorney general’s office to investigate insulin pricing.

Insulin cost Coloradans 2.62 times more in 2018 than in 2007, according to inflation-adjusted numbers cited by Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser in a November 2020 report. Insulin prices increased at four times the rate of inflation over that time frame.

A survey conducted by the attorney general’s office as part of its investigation found that 40% of 391 survey respondents statewide were forced to ration their insulin at least once a year.

“In some cases where individuals lack access to insulin, respondents even reported choosing to fast as a means of managing their blood sugar levels,” the report said.

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Faith Miller
Faith Miller

Faith Miller was a reporter with Colorado Newsline covering the Colorado Legislature, immigration and other stories.