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Resident asked to speak at House hearing

Mindy Salango is a Morgantown resident who lives with Type 1 diabetes.

Salango is a mom, has a full-time job with health insurance and still struggles to afford her medications. She said she pays about $350 a month for her life-saving insulin and daily supplies.

Salango has been a diabetes advocate in West Virginia for a little while and also has been a storyteller for Protect Our Care, a nonprofit that works to protect and strengthen health care.

She has now been invited to give testimony to the U.S. House of Representatives Oversight and Reform Committee at a hearing examining prescription drug pricing reform.

According to a press release from the committee, the hearing will examine the findings from the  its nearly three-year investigation into pharmaceutical pricing and business practices, as well as the need for structural reforms to lower prescription drug prices. This  includes President Biden’s Build Back Better Act, which would allow Medicare to negotiate for some of the most expensive drugs, prevent drug prices from rising faster than inflation and place a cap on out-of-pocket costs for patients, including copay caps on insulin.

Salango told The Dominion Post Thursday she was asked to speak at the hearing after someone on the committee saw a roundtable discussion she participated in with Sen.  Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and asked if she would participate in this hearing.

Salango will speak to her experience as a consumer who struggles to afford the high price of her insulin  and discuss how the prescription drug reforms in Build Back Better will help lower drug costs for her and other West Virginians.

“We absolutely need reform in terms of drug pricing — we need to hold big drug companies accountable because their prices have skyrocketed over the past 15 years,” Salango said. “A bottle of insulin that cost $93 ten years ago now costs $300, and there has been no change — it’s the same [medication]. There is no reason for this price hike, and we are getting price gouged and people are dying because of it.”

The price of insulin is not the only expense diabetics have to worry about either. According to Salango, there are many other supplies to purchase.

“We have a lot of equipment — test strips, monitors, emergency kits — that we also have to carry, so our expense is not just insulin alone,” she said. “You have to have a way to inject it, which is also expensive. Whether you are on a pump or multiple daily injections, either one, it’s not  cheap.”

Salango  has met six people in the past year in gas station parking lots, she said, giving them her insulin supplies and any insulin surplus that she happens to have “so that these people don’t die.”

Salango said she has been promoting the Build Back Better Act and encourages everyone who can vote to vote for it because she believes it is life-changing and will save lives. However, Salango said she thinks there is one drawback to the insulin provision.

“The downside to the insulin provision in the bill is that it’s only a copay cap. It’s not a price cap,” she said.

“Which has been some kind of confusing messaging — anyone who is uninsured or underinsured will still pay full price at the counter,” said Salango. “So my big push is that we cannot leave the most vulnerable of us behind.”

According to Salango, if there is one thing the pandemic should have taught us, it’s that we are all one major illness, one major accident, one global pandemic, one lay-off away from losing our insurance and having no safety net.

Salango said her main goal with her testimony is to inform the committee  it has to get to the root of the problem, which is pharmaceutical company greed and  pricing structure.

“There’s no reason that we can go to Canada and get a month’s supply of insulin, no questions asked, no prescription needed, for $35, but if you don’t have insurance and you’re in the United States and you go to the counter, you have to have a prescription, and it’s going to cost you at least $1,200 for a one-month supply,” she said.

The lifespan of a diabetic without any insulin is 24 to 48 hours according to Salango. “If your body goes without insulin, you will die. So that’s our choice — we pay or we die.”

Salango said she has been  lucky and privileged to have insurance, and it has still been a burden. “That is why I feel like I have to use my privilege to speak out,” she said.

The committee hearing was originally scheduled for Thursday but was postponed due to the passing of former Sen. Bob Dole. Salango said there is no set date for the reschedule, but it could be as early as next week or after the holiday season.

Salango will also participate in a press conference with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and  House Committee on Oversight and Reform Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney, scheduled for tomorrow morning.

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