The full guest column by Liz Mathis was published in the Cedar Rapids Gazette and Mason City Globe Gazette. Click on the links below to read the full article.
Two bills with overwhelming bipartisan support passed the Iowa House in 2021. HF262 and HF263 together would allow pharmacists to refill lifesaving medicines in an emergency and cap insulin costs at $100.
As ranking member of the Senate Human Resources Committee, I asked the chair of the committee, Sen. Jeff Edler, to bring these lifesaving bills up for a vote this session, but he refused.
Insulin now costs anywhere from $175 to $300 per vial, or around $1,000 per month on average. Replacing a $3,000 three-month supply is impossible for many working families.
According to JDRF, up to 25 percent of people with diabetes skip or ration their insulin because they cannot afford it. Bri Moss, a Type 1 diabetic from Dubuque, shared her fear and heartbreak of losing a friend who rationed their insulin and died as a result.
Bob Greenwood, owner of Greenwood Pharmacy in Waterloo, told me insulin only cost $8 a vial when he graduated pharmacy school in 1977, but prices started to escalate after the enactment of the Medicare Modernization Act (MMA) of 2003.
The MMA provided the Medicare Part D prescription drug benefit. When insulin manufacturers had to compete for formulary placement and rebate Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBMs) in the Part D program, it further added to the price of insulin. Greenwood said Insulin prices continued to skyrocket when mergers between big companies such as CVS (acquiring Caremark and Aetna), and Cigna buying Express Scripts, reduced competition even further. Currently, three pharmaceutical manufacturers hold 95% of the insulin market share.
A study published in BMJ Global Health showed that pharma companies could manufacture and price a full year’s supply of insulin at $72 to $133 per patient, versus the $12,000 currently paid per patient on average, and still make a profit.
It’s time to take action on this type of price gouging that’s costing Iowans their lives. Since Iowa Republicans in the Legislature refuse to act, Congress must. In Congress, I will support legislation to cap the cost of insulin and allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices so that no American needs to choose between their insulin and their mortgage.
State Sen. Liz Mathis is a Democratic representing parts of Linn County. Mathis is running for Congress in the new 2nd District.