One in three Medicare beneficiaries has diabetes, which is more than 3 million people nationwide. Unfortunately, Medicare does not provide coverage for insulin. In May, President Trump announced that his administration is going to cut the price of insulin for Medicare beneficiaries to $35 for a one month supply. This would be a drastic reduction in price of about 66%. For older adults struggling to pay for their necessary supply of insulin, this could be a life-saving development.
Insulin Costs Skyrocket Every Year
The cost of insulin therapy tripled between 2002 and 2013, and it has increased another 55% since 2014. Diabetics have been expressing concerns over the out-of-control cost of insulin for many years. In fact, insulin has become so unaffordable that some people have either opted to get their insulin abroad from Canada, or go without it.
To make insulin more attainable, some manufacturers offer copay cards and assistance programs to help lower the out-of-pocket costs. These measures do help, but the costs of insulin copays and coinsurance for those on a Part D plan are still astronomical.
“Having more predictable out-of-pocket costs will help seniors adhere to their doctor’s orders,” White House counselor Kellyanne Conway said.
The Long Battle
This step toward addressing the crisis of rising insulin costs is long overdue. Diabetics, who are dependent on insulin to control their glucose levels and to prevent stroke or even death, have understandably been voicing their concerns about this issue for years. Their voices carried, reaching lawmakers who ended up taking pharmaceutical companies to court over the soaring costs of insulin. The House Committee on Energy and Commerce Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee held a total of 4 congressional hearings on this subject in 2019. In response to the hearings, pharmaceutical companies offered to lower prices and make generic brands available, but their promises were not enough.
Finally Being Heard
The Trump administration realized just how much insulin costs were affecting seniors and decided to take action. On Tuesday, May 26, the president stated, “Today I’m proud to announce that we have reached a breakthrough agreement to dramatically slash the out-of-pocket cost of insulin.”
CMS Administrator Seema Verma added, “President Trump has forged partnerships with pharmaceutical manufacturers and plans to deliver lower priced insulin to our nation’s seniors. This market-based solution, in which insulin manufacturers and Part D sponsors compete to provide lower costs and higher quality for patients, will allow seniors to choose a Part D plan that covers their insulin at an average 66 percent lower out-of-pocket cost throughout the year.”
She continued, “Trump’s Part D seniors savings model plan will go effective January 2021 and will save seniors about 66%, or an average of $446 each year, on insulin copays.” Verma also noted that if this model for lowering costs is successful, then they will try to expand the program to include other expensive prescription drugs.