FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Retired librarian Kaye Peterson sometimes has to dip into her savings to help pay for her insulin and other prescriptions stemming from her long battle with diabetes.
She made a pitch Wednesday for legislation backed by a bipartisan group of Kentucky lawmakers that would cap out-of-pocket costs for a 30-day supply of insulin at $100.
Peterson, 62, said she spends $300 a month for insulin, used by diabetics to keep their blood sugar at safe levels. Insulin needs vary by patient, as do costs depending on insurance coverage. The bill before Kentucky lawmakers would apply only to commercial health insurance plans.
“Our under-insured and uninsured cannot afford that," Peterson said at a news conference with lawmakers and health advocates. “They're begging for insulin every day."
More than 500,000 people in Kentucky have diabetes. In the past 14 years, the price of insulin has skyrocketed by more than 550%, said Republican Rep. Danny Bentley, the bill's lead sponsor.
“For those who require insulin to live, the cost has spiraled out of control, and for many it's beyond their reach," said Gary Dougherty with the American Diabetes Association.
The legislation would bring badly needed financial relief for many diabetics by capping insulin co-pays at $100 per month, regardless of the type or amount of insulin prescribed, Dougherty said.
“This would be a great step forward in ensuring insulin is more affordable for those who need it," he said at the news conference. “It's time to reduce the financial burden on Kentucky diabetes patients who require insulin to live."
The bill is supported by Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear. In his State of the Commonwealth speech Tuesday evening, the Democratic governor urged the GOP-led legislature to "fight back" against high insulin prices by passing the measure.
“There are far too many Kentuckians who are right now rationing insulin, or deciding between a prescription drug expense or healthy food, rent or school supplies," Beshear said in his speech.
Because of the high cost, an estimated 1 in 4 diabetics use less of their insulin than their doctors prescribed for them, putting their lives at risk, Dougherty said.
“Access to insulin is a basic human right," said Democratic Rep. Patti Minter, a co-sponsor of the bill.
The measure was introduced last week on the opening day of this year's legislative session. It has been sent to the House Health and Family Services Committee.
The legislation is House Bill 12.