Op-Ed: Colorado Banned High-Priced Insulin, Now Congress Needs to Act

Op-Ed: Colorado Banned High-Priced Insulin, Now Congress Needs to Act
Here we are, on the eve of the ten-year anniversary of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) on March 23 and, in the midst of a global pandemic, our health care is still under attack.

With the coronavirus threat now spreading across the world, it has become abundantly clear that our elected officials need to do more to ensure that Americans have access to affordable care and prescription medicine.

The ACA has been a literal lifesaver for millions of Americans, yet we must continually defend ourselves against the interests of big corporations and money hungry politicians, dead-set on tearing down the law. The fact that drug companies have more power than people has been clear for decades. That’s because, as a Type 1 diabetic, I've seen the greed of drug makers take precedence over the lives of people like me.

Over the course of the last decade, prescription drug costs rose significantly across the board, but the increase in the cost of insulin was particularly dramatic. A bottle of insulin, the formula for which has barely changed in nearly 100 years, and certainly has not changed since the most advanced formula was first approved in 1996, went from $30 to $350 over the span of just a decade. This is a drug that people need daily to survive, and drug companies have raised prices purely for profit.

As a lifelong diabetic, I have seen first-hand how predatory drug pricing affects some of the most vulnerable people in the country. As I testified before Congress a year ago, my insulin prescription, which I need daily to stay alive because my body is unable to produce the hormone, costs more than $1,400 a month.

My story is shared by countless Coloradans, which is why last year Representative Dylan Roberts worked to pass a bill that caps insulin prescriptions at $100 per month, out-of-pocket, for all plans that are regulated by the Colorado Division of Insurance. With the passing of the bill, we became the first state in the nation to tackle the high cost of insulin and, most importantly, brought some much-needed relief to Coloradans.

There is more work to be done. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 34.2 million Americans suffer from diabetes nationwide. Thankfully, in 2020, Congress will have the chance to address out-of-control drug costs head on, helping millions of Americans, just as they did when the ACA was first passed.

Right now, H.R. 3, known as the Lower Drug Costs Now Act, has passed the U.S. House and is sitting on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s desk. If passed into law, this bill would give Medicare the power to negotiate drug prices directly with pharmaceutical companies, a move that is estimated to result in $450 billion in cost savings over the course of a decade. This bill will make vital prescriptions more accessible for everyone — those with Medicare and those with private insurance will see cost savings. Unfortunately, Senator McConnell has shown no indication that he intends to advance the bill, and our own senator, Cory Gardner, has
chosen not to advocate on behalf of the bill.

Ten years ago, the ACA built a foundation for a health care system that helps the consumer. But Congress has since been unable to rein in profit-chasing among big insurance companies and prescription drug makers. Colorado has led the way and now Congress can follow, by passing the Lower Drug Costs Now Act for all of America. It’s time we stop playing games with people’s health and lives.

Gail deVore is a Denver resident who has had Type 1 Diabetes for more than 48 years.

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