Editorials, Opinion

Tell the Legislature to stop dragging its feet on insulin bill

Why have our legislators dragged their feet on passing a bill that can literally save lives?

Four bills that would cap the price of insulin (two each in the Senate and House) never left the Banking and Insurance committee. A fifth bill — HB 4543 — was introduced in the House Health and Human Resources committee on Jan. 24. The House Banking and Insurance committee sat on it for 11 days. Then Judiciary for 10 more. It finally — finally! — passed the House and moved on to the Senate Feb. 20. Then the Senate Banking and Insurance committee sat on it until Monday, as Sen. Mike Azinger, R-Wood, had no plans to let HB 4543 see the light of day. Fortunately for us, he caved to pressure and placed the bill on the agenda at the last minute.

Essentially, this bill limits the co-pay for insulin to $100 for a 30-day supply of any type or amount of insulin that fills a person’s prescription needs. Unfortunately, the legislation only covers individuals with insurance or PEIA. Those who are uninsured or on Medicare or Medicaid will not be affected by these changes.

It’s not perfect, but it’s a start.

Currently, co-payments can exceed $600 per month, which doesn’t include the cost of diabetic equipment and supplies or insurance premiums. All of that can cost an additional $1,000 per month.

Back in December, a Dominion Post reporter joined a caravan on its way to Canada to buy insulin. One of the participant’s typical out-of-pocket costs for a three-month supply of two of three diabetes medications was $755. In Canada, she paid $311.

These astronomical prices have led 1 in 4 diabetics to ration their insulin. When diabetics ration insulin, they run the risk of kidney failure, limb amputation and/or diabetic ketoacidosis, which can lead to coma or death.

When forced to choose between certain death if they run out of insulin altogether and only possible death, many diabetics will choose to ration.

The bill notes 240,000 West Virginians are diagnosed with diabetes.

A lot of lives can be saved by passing HB 4543.

As of Tuesday, HB 4543 had passed out of Banking and Insurance and Health and Human Resources and was on its way to the Senate Finance committee. For this bill to have a chance of passing the Legislature, it must get through the Finance committee and then be passed by the full Senate Saturday in order for the House to review changes before the session ends at midnight.

Here’s what you can do: Call the Senate Finance chair Craig Blair (at 304-357-7867) and our local senators on the Finance committee (Sen. Maroney at 304-357-7902; Sen. Prezioso at 304-357-7961; and Sen. Sypolt at 304-357-7914) and tell them to get HB 4543 on the agenda. Then tell them to pass this bill. Then remind them that this is an election year, and we will remember in November.