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Fight for Affordable Insulin Continues During National Diabetes Month


Tuesday, November 22, 2022   

November is National Diabetes Month - and the American Diabetes Association reports at least 3.2 million Californians have been diagnosed with the disease.

People with diabetes make up more than 10.5% of the adult population, and another 33%, or 10.3 million people, have high blood sugar levels that signify pre-diabetes.

Dr. Nicole Brady is chief medical officer for UnitedHealthcare. She said the rising cost of insulin is putting many patients in a bind.

"Many of them may even have to make decisions such as, 'Am I gonna buy food for my family this week or am I gonna spend money on my insulin?' So it puts them in a very precarious position," Brady said.

A study by the Healthcare Cost Institute found the average price of insulin has nearly doubled since 2012. And research published last month in the Annals of Internal Medicine shows that one in five adults with diabetes is rationing insulin to save money.

The Biden administration's Inflation Reduction Act, which passed this summer, caps the cost of insulin for people on Medicare at $35-per month, starting in January. It also caps their out-of-pocket costs for prescription drugs at $2,000 a year, and allows Medicare to negotiate down the cost of drugs.

Brady said starting January 1, UnitedHealthcare will eliminate out-of-pocket costs for certain prescription medications, including preferred brands of insulin, for people enrolled in standard fully insured group plans.

"So we're really, really hoping that eliminating the out-of-pocket expense for insulin helps reduce that financial burden and that people will be able to be better adherent to their medications and take them more regularly," Brady said.

Brady also provided some tips on improving your quality of life while on an insulin regimen. She advised that people reduce sugary, processed foods, limit alcohol, avoid smoking and exercise regularly.

"Moving and using those muscles helps burn blood sugar and keeps those levels manageable. And we know it can also help a multitude of other conditions like heart disease and high blood pressure, and that activity actually just makes us all feel better," she said.

Diabetes care was on the midterm ballot this year in California. Voters rejected Prop 29, which would have required a nurse practitioner, doctor or physician's assistant on site at all dialysis clinics while patients are receiving care. The measure was supported by unions but vigorously opposed by the dialysis industry, which argued that the increased costs would force clinics to close.

Disclosure: United Healthcare contributes to our fund for reporting on Health Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.

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