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Bipartisan Legislation aims to lower costs of diabetes treatment

South Middle School teacher Maggie Reider’s son, Roxy Vasil, was diagnosed with Type I diabetes when he was 6. 

Each day Vasil would attend school, Reider would send along test strips, a monitor, lancets, crackers and juice. By the time he graduated, he began using a continuous glucose monitoring system called Freestyle Libre, and no longer needed all those supplies. 

Reider said buying her son’s treatment has not been easy. At 16, he began working to help pay for his treatment. 

“As a teacher, my paychecks would go solely to the cost of the insulin and the Freestyle Libre,” Reider said.

Reider’s story was one of many shared during a Tuesday press conference held to discuss 2021 legislation intended to make treatment for diabetes more affordable. The legislation is sponsored by Delegate Barbara Evans Fleischauer, D-Monongalia, and Delegate Matthew Rohrbach, R-Cabell.

Fleishauer said the bill intends to create a copay limit for equipment and supplies, lower the copay for insulin to $25 and create a new copay for non-insulin medications for diabetics. The bipartisan legislation is modeled after a similar bill passed in Connecticut last August.

“We thought if Connecticut can do it, why can’t West Virginia,” Fleischauer said. 

This legislation follows HB 4543 passed during the last legislative session, which capped insulin copays at $100. Rohrbach said HB 4543 was an important first step, and hopes this new legislation will build upon that.

Rohrbach said technology over the years to treat diabetes has evolved tremendously. However, limited access due to costs of the technology continues to be an obstacle for many.

“What this bill really is an attempt to do is to make it easier for individuals to get access to these lifesaving medications and technologies,” he said. 

Guest speaker Alan Hawkins said he has lived with Type I diabetes for 63 years, after being diagnosed when he was 10. Access to new and effective technology has allowed him to live with no major complications.

Every five minutes, the insulin pump Hawkins uses provides a reading to help him monitor his blood sugar levels. The pump then communicates with a sensor that automatically adjusts Hawkin’s insulin. 

“This pump has helped me beyond compare,” he said. “I cannot imagine being without it, especially at 73 years of age, because you have other things wrong with you and this makes handling those better.”

Guest speaker Adrian Kiger Olmstead said she has lived with diabetes for 35 years since being diagnosed at 11. When she turned 24, she was no longer able to benefit from her parents’ insurance.

She said she has since paid upwards of $250,000 on insulin, supplies and insurance over the years.

“It feels discriminatory that not everyone can afford this kind of care,” Kiger Olmstead said. “Every diabetic deserves the opportunity to have controlled blood sugars so we can live long and healthy lives.”