In wake of House-passed insulin cap, Rep. Sharice Davids hosts roundtable on rising insulin costs

Following a passed House bill that would cap insulin costs for insured Kansans with diabetes at $35, Rep. Sharice Davids discussed how the high costs of insulin impact those who deal with them frequently at a roundtable discussion Friday. Photo by Lucie Krisman.

In the face of rising insulin costs, recent legislation could make it easier for diabetic Kansans to afford it.

Rep. Sharice Davids recently voted to pass the Affordable Insulin Now Act, which would cap insulin co-pays at $35 for people with private insurance or on Medicare. 

At a roundtable discussion at Johnson County’s Central Resource Library on Friday, Rep. Sharice Davids discussed the impacts of capping those costs with Johnson County residents who experience them firsthand. 

Why it matters: According to a 2019 report conducted by Davids, Kansans pay nearly 5 times as much for brand-name diabetes medications as diabetes patients do in other countries.

In the state’s third congressional district- which includes Johnson, Wyandotte and part of Miami counties- this amounts to 17,000 senior citizens and disabled Medicare beneficiaries. 

According to the report, Medicare users in Johnson and Wyandotte counties paid roughly $16 million altogether for insulin in 2016. 

Jenifer Clausen, pharmacy director at Saint Luke’s South Hospital said, some of the factors in how much more Kansans are paying than patients in other countries are difference in ability to negotiate prices and other costs that drug manufacturers have. 

“Drug manufacturers have other expenses that the American people foot the bill for,” she said. “Samples is one, advertising is another. And so through that, because they need to market their drugs or feel the need to market their drugs, someone has to pay for their market and they pass that price through their products.”

Impact of high costsHeather Meyer, an Overland Park resident, state representative and Type I diabetic patient, said on Friday that a $35 cap on insulin would make a big difference for her family. 

Before having access to health insurance, Meyer said she had to ration her insulin and share it with her father, who was also a Type I diabetic patient. This has led to costly health complications for both her and her father, she said. 

“I think that a lot of us in the Type I community have been begging for something like this for so long,” she said. “We’ve lived through it ourselves and we don’t want anyone else to have to go through that.” 

Jessica Brown, a Prairie Village resident and mother of a Type I diabetic patient, said a good part of the expense in her case comes from the technology that has been developed to help monitor her 14-year-old son’s state. 

“(Diabetes) never sleeps, never takes a vacation,” she said. “It’s leaps and bounds from where we were 12 years ago when he was diagnosed, but with that comes a lot of expense.”

What’s next: Davids said capping insulin costs at $35 are one step in a larger picture for working toward affordable healthcare. 

Davids said she has also supported making resources more widely available for diabetes and cancer research.

Especially throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, she said it’s important to take a holistic approach and consider how many things are impacted by high healthcare costs.

“There’s a mental, emotional and physical cost, but there’s also a dollar cost to that,” she said. “That’s at the hospital and that’s in our businesses and our schools. I hope folks have somewhat of an insight into just how complicated these things can be.”