OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – A new law that caps insulin co-pays goes into effect in Oklahoma today, coincidentally on the first day of diabetes awareness month.
House Bill 1019 caps the copay for a 30-day insulin supply at $30 and $90 for a 90-day supply. It gives authority to the Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner to enforce that price cap.
“Insulin is like air to us to people with type 1 diabetes,” said Diabetes Solutions Executive Director Kim Boaz-Wilson. “The population of the people who need the most help are the people who have jobs who have insurance but have high co-pays or have high deductibles.”
Boaz-Wilson says although the law is a great first step, the work shouldn’t stop with its enactment.
“It’s gonna help a lot of people — it’s not gonna help everybody,” she said. “It’s gonna help a certain percentage of people with insurances but it’s a start.”
She has witnessed firsthand the increase of insulin prices.
“When the fast acting insulin… first came on the market in 1996, I’ll never forget when that insulin came out and we were like ‘this is awesome, but you know what, that’s $58 a bottle,'” she said.
Now one vial can cost as much as $350.
“For the average adult, one vial would not be enough for a month, so we’re looking at [up to] $500 a month,” she said.
Director of the Harold Hamm Diabetes Center at OU Med Jed Friedman says he has seen that price put patients in a difficult spot.
“Lots of people have to choose between paying the rent or buying their insulin,” he said. “That’s a big concern for us in Oklahoma…people in the middle who aren’t covered by Medicaid but they earn too much but don’t have enough money to afford insurance so they don’t have much options.”
Sen. Carri Hicks is one of the lawmakers who continues to work to lower insulin prices. She also has a son with type 1 diabetes and says things are getting better.
“Manufacturers have actually come to the table and started finding creative ways to help patients get price relief,” she aid. “The frustrating part of that is our family continues to buy our son’s insurance outside of his insurance plan so that obviously doesn’t go toward our deductible.”
She says this law is great for those who get insulin through insurance, but she agrees the work is not done.
“The frustrating part of that is that it’s still only a very small percentage of Oklahomans who will benefit from that co-pay cap on insulin,” she said. “So as a state senator and part of the state legislature, I feel like it’s incumbent upon all of us to continue to pass policies that will reduce costs for everyone.”
News4 spoke with the author of the bill, Rep. Rande Worthen, who says he will wait and see how the law plays out but is open to addressing other insulin-based legislation in the future.