IOWA LEGISLATURE

AARP urges Iowa lawmakers to advance cap on out-of-pocket insulin costs

Organization prods action now so bill survives funnel deadline

Insulin Needle (Dreamstime/TNS)
Insulin Needle (Dreamstime/TNS)

DES MOINES — The AARP is calling for quick action on legislation seeking to cap out-of-pocket insulin costs at $100 a month under state-regulated health insurance plans.

The proposal, House File 2138, has been approved by the House Human Resources Committee but the AARP doesn’t want the bill to get “lost in the shuffle” as lawmakers race to meet the second funnel deadline of the session in two weeks, said Anthony Carroll, the AARP associate state director for advocacy.

A recent study showed almost 261,000 Iowans have prediabetes or diabetes, and the cost of insulin has increased nearly 40 percent over five years, according to AARP Iowa State Director Brad Anderson. A survey also showed 30 percent of Iowa residents have stopped taking medication as prescribed due to cost.

“We need to pass legislation at the state level to begin addressing these outrageous drug costs, and this legislation to cap insulin costs is a step in the right direction,” Anderson said Tuesday. “With the funnel deadline rapidly approaching, the time to act is now.”

The March 21 funnel deadline is when bills passed out of the House must be approved by a committee in the Senate and Senate-passed bills must be approved by a House committee to stay alive this session.

Nothing in politics gets done without people coming forward to share their stories, Anderson said. And HF 2138 is no exception, according to Sen. Carrie Koelker, R-Dyersville, who said the issue came to her from a “constituent who lost her son who had high insulin costs.”

“Nobody should be unable to afford insulin or have it cost a life,” Koelker said.

House Human Resources Committee Chairwoman Shannon Lundgren, R-Peosta, said the bill has been a year in the making.

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“It can be difficult to get all interested parties on the same page,” she said. “Last year I recommended that all interested parties come together to provide a solution to this pressing issue and the result is a very good bill that will protect insulin consumers at the point of sale.”

At a Statehouse news conference Tuesday, Nancy Maday of Bettendorf said that with Medicare she likely will hit the program’s “doughnut hole” later this month and her medication costs will be $900 a month.

“Sometimes I don’t take my meds for a couple of days at the end of the month,” Maday said.

The AARP survey also found that:

• Over the last 14 years, out-of-pocket costs of many insulin brands jumped 555 percent.

• From 2012-16, the average cost of insulin rose from $2,900 to $5,700 a year.

• Medical expenses for people with diabetes are 2.3 times higher than for those without.

HF 2138 has broad support from hospitals, health care groups and some insurance interests. No lobbying group is registered against it, but that doesn’t necessarily mean there is enough support to pass it, AARP officials said.

HF 2138 would apply to insurance plans the state regulates, including individuals plans and those that cover state employees, Carroll said.

“That creates a bit of pressure on the marketplace,” he said, which can lead other insurers to follow suit.

The $100 limit would apply to each kind of insulin a person takes.

Comments: (319) 398-8375; james.lynch@thegazette.com

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