Ellen Allen: Caps on prescription copays help West Virginians (Opinion)

By: Ellen Allen

December 13, 2023

Our loved ones and neighbors deserve affordable medicines — it is the mission of West Virginians for Affordable Health Care to help make that happen.

No one in my family is insulin dependent but, during my more than 10-year tenure at Covenant House, I saw up close and personal what diabetics had to contend with on a daily basis.

Any person who is rationing insulin is likely living a painful and nonproductive daily life. The effects of the practice can be terrible.

I recall a woman who lost her 33-year-old daughter, a type 1 diabetic, who started rationing her insulin after losing her job and health insurance. She died from diabetic ketoacidosis.

Insulin is lifesaving for people with diabetes and is included on the Model List of Essential Medicines formulated by the World Health Organization. This means it should be available at all times at a price the individual and the community can afford. However, over the past decade, insulin prices have tripled in the United States, while out-of-pocket costs per prescription doubled. High costs of medications can contribute to nonadherence.

Effective Jan. 1, West Virginians who use insulin will see their copays for the diabetes drug capped at $35 a month, in aggregate, under a new state law.

West Virginia celebrated a major legislative win this year in the fight for insulin affordability. Senate Bill 577, which was signed into law in March, reduces the cost of insulin to $35 per 30-day supply and states that the cost of devices shall not exceed $100 per 30 days. It also removes the prescription for a blood test for ketones.