Senate Health advances bill capping insulin copays

CHARLESTON — The Senate Committee on Health and Human Resources advanced a bill Tuesday limiting copayments for insulin at $35 for a month’s supply and adding coverage for insulin devices into code for the first time.

House Bill 4252 unanimously passed the House of Delegates on Jan. 26. It will now be referred to the Senate Finance Committee before being introduced for passage to the full Senate.

If signed into law, the proposed bill would cap a month’s supply of insulin at $35, down from the current $100 limit. The cost sharing for devices — including blood glucose test strips, glucometers, lancets, lancing devices and insulin syringes — would be capped at $100.

People who need insulin pumps — small devices that regulate blood sugar and automatically inject insulin through a small tube beneath the skin — would be able to access one for $250, every two years.

An amendment adopted by the Senate Health Committee on Tuesday would extend the copayment and cost-sharing limits to those insured through the Public Employees Insurance Agency.

Delegate Patricia Rucker, R-Jefferson, requested to speak with someone from the state Insurance Commissioner’s Office, however that was not possible due to technical difficulties.

No members of the committee spoke for or against the bill Tuesday.

Delegate Barbara Fleischauer, D-Monongalia, is the lead sponsor of the bill. She previously said she hopes the policy will help families and individuals who have diabetes stay healthy by cutting costs and eliminating the need to potentially ration the life-saving medication.

A 2018 study from the Yale Diabetes Center found that up to a quarter of diabetes patients have rationed care at some point due to an inability to afford their medication.

Such rationing can lead to long-term challenges in stabilizing glucose levels and can lead to diabetic ketoacidosis, a potentially fatal complication that develops when the body doesn’t have enough insulin to allow blood sugar into cells to use as energy.

In 2018, more than 15% of adults in West Virginia lived with diabetes, the second-highest rate in the United States, according to the state Department of Health and Human Resources.

Another 11% of adults were pre-diabetic that year. The disease is most prevalent in households with an annual income below $15,000.