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‘We have people who are suffering because they can’t afford it’: State House bill aims to cap cost of insulin

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HARLINGEN, Texas (KVEO) — State lawmakers are continuing their legislative session in Austin this week, on the deck: House Bill 40 (HB 40), which would put a limit to the out-of-pocket expense insured diabetics would have to pay for insulin.

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Lawmakers are also working on a range of bills from reforms to the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) to ratifying a heartbeat bill that would ban abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected.

Read House Bill 40 bill here.

According to data from the UT Pan-America Border Health Office –now just the Border Health Office at UTRGV– in 2006, 26% of the population of the Rio Grande Valley had diabetes.

Map showing the percent, as well as how many people, have diabetes in each county in the Rio Grande Valley. From https://www.utrgv.edu/bho/diabetes-registry/statistics/index.htm

Dr. Eron Manusov, a professor of human genetics at UTRGV, said that the percent of people with diabetes in the Rio Grande Valley is now around 32%.

Many of those patients are not getting adequate medical care to manage their diabetes until it’s too late.

“When I’m in the hospital, I admit multiple patients with end-stage liver disease, end-stage kidney disease, multiple amputations, because they have not taken care of their diabetes,” said Manusov.

Since 2012, the average monthly cost of insulin has increased from around $200 to nearly $460. For some, it can be much higher.

Manusov, who mostly treats low-income, uninsured, or otherwise vulnerable patients, said that his patients struggle to keep up with the increasing costs.

“We have people who are suffering because they can’t afford it,” he said.

HB 40 would change that. If ratified, it would cap the monthly out-of-pocket costs for insured diabetics to $100 a month.

The specific line from House Bill 40, Section 1358.058, subsection 2 that shows the specific language that will cap the cost of insulin to $100.

“That includes all insulins, including rapid-acting and long-acting. That would be a major boon for us,” said Manusov.

The American Diabetes Association website says there are five types of insulin in use, they are listed below:

  • Rapid-acting insulin, which begins working after 15 minutes and lasts up to four hours
  • Regular or short-acting insulin, which begins working in 30 minutes and lasts three to six hours
  • Intermediate-acting insulin, which begins working in two to four hours and lasts 12-18 hours
  • Long-acting insulin, which begins working after several hours and lasts around 24 hours
  • Ultra long-acting, which begins working after six hours and lasts around 36 hours

The bill does indeed state the law will apply regardless of the type of insulin a person uses, which would allow those like Dr. Manusov to better treat uninsured patients by giving them access to higher quality, longer-lasting insulin options.

Having the option to give better insulin for a maximum monthly cost of $100 “could make a huge dent in our healthcare costs, not to mention quality of life,” said Manusov.

HB 40 has wide bipartisan support. The bill has 65 Democratic sponsors/ cosponsors, as well as 38 Republican sponsors/ cosponsors.

Despite the wide support across both sides of the aisle, Manusov said he expected lobbyists representing the three companies that make insulin, Eli Lilly, Novo Nordisk, and Sanofi, to challenge the bill.

“If it works, I would be one happy man because I could help so many more people,” said Manusov.

Eddie Lucio III, the Democratic State Representative from District 38 in Cameron County, is one of the co-sponsors of the bill.

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