Guest Column
Everyone deserves access to affordable insulin | Column
I‘m a third-generation diabetic. Federal law caps my father’s cost because he’s a senior on Medicare. But the rest of us need help, too.
For the vast majority of the millions of Americans with diabetes who depend on insulin, the prices are outrageous.
For the vast majority of the millions of Americans with diabetes who depend on insulin, the prices are outrageous. [ ARKASHA STEVENSON | Los Angeles Times ]
Published Feb. 8|Updated Feb. 8

The extremely high price of insulin that millions of diabetics depend on to stay alive has been getting a lot of attention recently — and for good reason. On Jan. 1, a key measure of the federal Inflation Reduction Act took effect, capping the price of this lifesaving medication at $35 per month for people enrolled in Medicare. After years of drug manufacturers relentlessly and inhumanely raising the price of insulin, millions of seniors and people with disabilities can now go to the pharmacy without worrying that the cost of their prescriptions has skyrocketed.

Denise Marrero
Denise Marrero [ Provided ]

But older people aren’t the only ones struggling: Millions of people under 65 who have private insurance or are uninsured still have to face the steep cost of insulin and other prescription drugs. Now it’s time to build on this progress and make insulin affordable for everyone.

I’m a third-generation diabetic. My father, like me, depends on insulin to live. He directly benefits from this new law as a senior on Medicare. I’m thrilled to know that he will never have to make the decision to ration, skip a dose or go into debt to afford insulin as so many diabetics have to do when prices go up. But there’s more left to do to truly make insulin affordable for everyone.

Related: Tampa Bay Latinos with diabetes struggle with high insulin costs

Diabetes is a rising public health epidemic that affects more than 30 million people in the United States. It’s critical that we make insulin accessible for everyone so that no one has to make the impossible decision to jeopardize their health so they can pay for other basic needs like food and gas, especially as the cost of living gets higher every day.

Anyone who has diabetes knows that it’s not curable. I’m going to need insulin to manage my condition for the rest of my life, and so will millions of people with private insurance or who are uninsured. Right now, there’s no hope that insulin will ever get more affordable for us. Though it only costs about $10 to produce a vial of insulin, for too long big pharma has been allowed to raise the price faster than the rate of inflation, putting the cost out of reach for many and endangering the lives of those who depend on it.

Right now, our elected leaders should be working to build on the success of the Inflation Reduction Act and extend the same protections to everyone. Some congressional lawmakers are already pressing for a broader insulin cap, but Republicans blocked it in August.

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This is an especially urgent issue here in Florida, where there are nearly 4 million people without insurance. People who are uninsured are at higher risk of going without treatment and without medicine. And if they do have access to insulin, they are more likely to have to pay full list price, which can be as much as $1,000 a month out of pocket. It’s completely unacceptable that anyone should have to pay that much money for a medication they need to survive. Latinos, a big part of the population in Florida, are both more likely to be without coverage and to be diagnosed with diabetes than white people. According to national statistics, Latinos are also 1.3 times more likely to die of diabetes complications. Making insulin affordable for all is quite literally a matter of life and death here.

Over the years there have been countless hearings, investigations and excuses regarding the high cost of insulin. But the mystery is easy to solve: Drug corporations have monopoly control over prices. As long as drug corporations are allowed to charge whatever they want and raise prices whenever they want, they will do so for everything from insulin to asthma inhalers and cancer drugs. It’s time to hold them accountable and pass legislation to make sure they can never take advantage of patients the way they have for decades.

Diabetes doesn’t discriminate. Anyone may need affordable medicines to get better themselves or treat a family member. Instead of keeping pharma in control of our drug prices, our elected leaders should be working to make sure that no matter where someone lives, how much money they have or what political candidate they vote for, they can access affordable lifesaving medicines when they need them.

Denise Marrero lives in Sun City Center.