Nebraska bill aims to cap the cost of insulin for insured people

One in ten Nebraskans have diabetes
Nebraskans are paying skyrocketing prices for the insulin they need. One state senator has introduced a bill to fight those growing costs.
Published: Jan. 23, 2023 at 4:47 PM CST|Updated: Jan. 24, 2023 at 9:28 AM CST
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - The day after Jerrold Warren’s 26th birthday, freshly off his parents’ health insurance, he went to the pharmacy and was met with the harsh reality that is the cost of insulin in America -- one that he’s now paying for the rest of his life. Warren has been a Type 1 diabetic since he was 3 years old. He’s been living with diabetes for 28 years now.

“The first time I actually went [to the pharmacy], I was like, ‘Uh no. Cancel the order.’ And I went and called my parents and was like, ‘Mom, is it really that expensive?” said Warren.

It is. For instance, the price of Eli Lilly’s branded insulin Humalong has skyrocketed by about 1200% over the last three decades. Just a couple of days ago, Warren’s most recent insulin receipt was $877 for a month’s supply.

“I’ve actually road-tripped up to Canada, just to test it out…And it was actually cheaper to drive up to Canada, get a hotel, and get my insulin, than it is to do it here. I paid about 32, 33 dollars just to get a vial of insulin, came home, and compared it to the insulin I had at home. The exact same manufacturer, the exact same location that it was manufactured in. There was no difference between our insulin and theirs,” said Warren.

A bill introduced in the Nebraska Legislature aims to help those suffering from diabetes by capping insulin prices.

He certainly isn’t alone. According to the American Diabetes Association’s latest report for 2022, about one in ten Nebraskans have diabetes. Jesse Gloystein is another Type 1 diabetic.

“I’m dead if I don’t take insulin. I mean, it is a must,” said Gloystein, who’s been living with diabetes for 16 years.

He pays out of pocket until he hits his $8,000 deductible each year, which he says is normally by early summer.

“With rising costs of insulin over the years, it’s definitely a burden.”

Warren and Gloystein are the types of people Senator Tom Briese of Albion had in mind when he introduced LB142. The bill aims to cap insulin costs for insured people at $100 per 30-day supply.

“It really is a bipartisan issue. It’s not a left or right issue. This really is about helping Nebraskans out with the rising healthcare costs and ensuring Nebraskans have affordable insulin,” said Briese.

Starting Jan. 1, those on Medicare saw a $35 cap go into effect thanks to President Biden’s bipartisan Inflation Reduction Act. That leaves out millions of Americans with diabetes that don’t qualify for Medicare, have private insurance, or have no insurance at all.

Sen. Briese’s bill hopes to fill a part of that gap: Nebraskans with private insurance. He said insurance companies would shoulder the cost with his bill, hopefully forcing negotiations with manufacturers to bring down the cost. Because of that, those who are uninsured are left out of LB142.

“We need to look at other measures to help those that don’t have insurance because they have a desperate need as well,” said Briese.

Other attempts to cap insulin costs in the Nebraska legislature have failed, although Sen. Briese is hopeful it will pass this time around.

“I’m optimistic that we can get most senators on board,” he said. “Most everyone knows a diabetic or knows of a diabetic.”

The bill models that of Colorado. It was the first state to enact an insulin cap. Since then, more than 20 other states and Washington D.C. have passed their own legislation.

LB142 is assigned to a committee that will have its first hearing in early February. If passed, the insulin cap would go into effect in January of 2024.