Like hundreds of thousands of other Kentuckians who require insulin for one reason or another, mother-of-three Jamison Rogers has had to make extreme sacrifices to be able to pay for the medicine she requires to live.
More often than not, Rogers, who works full time for the federal government which includes insurance, has had to ration doses of insulin to be able to afford formula for her kids and even reused one-time usage needles in an attempt to save money on the additional $50 cost.
“I sacrifice for the boys needs, I don't want to take from them,” she said. “It’s hard as a mom to be a financial medical burden on your kids.”
She was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in her third pregnancy at the age of 30 when her pancreas quit producing insulin, making her require the $200 medication.
“Even working with a full-time job, that is a huge expense,” Rogers said. “Some days I wouldn’t take (the medicine) because I couldn’t afford to renew my prescription,” she said.
According to the proposed House Bill 105, insulin prices rose by 45% between 2014 and 2017, and over the last 14 years, the price of insulin has increased by 550% (adjusted for inflation).
In Kentucky alone, diagnosed diabetes costs $5.2 billion a year, according to the American Diabetes Association. Kentuckians located in Appalachia also face a higher diabetic mortality rate — 32% higher than the national rate, according to the Appalachian Regional Commission.
Luckily for Rogers, she receives a coupon from her doctor which reduced the cost of her insulin to only $25 for a 30 day supply.
But for two years, her local pharmacy wouldn’t fill the script, as it was mistakenly written for the course of 40 days, and the coupon is only valid for 30 days.
“I kept asking the pharmacies, ‘Why do I have this coupon and no one can fill it,’” she said. “I was so sick, I didn’t have it in me to fight. But we finally found out it was written with a difference of ten days, which cost me for two years.”
She said that while the insulin alone is expensive, other medical necessities hurt many diabetics’ pockets.
Rogers pays an additional monthly cost of $150 for her $600 insulin pump, and another $500 cost for her glucose monitor, which most insurance companies deny most patients.
“I can die and to make something that people are so dependent on so expensive and hard to get, it’s insane,” she said. “It’s the most insane thing I have ever dealt with in my life and people are having to go to extreme measures to get it.”
She said that she, along with others, have even thought about driving to Canada to get insulin for cheaper prices.
State Rep. Danny Bentley, R-Russell, also a pharmacist, is the sponsor of HB 105, which is pre-filed to be introduced in January and hopes to establish “requirements for a covered prescription insulin drug shall not exceed one hundred dollars ($100) per thirty day supply of insulin, regardless of the amount or type of insulin needed to fill the covered person’s prescription.”
"This proposed a $100 deductible for 30 days for people who are on normal insurance and capping it so that the ordinary person can get it,” Bentley said. “The price has increased exponentially in the last 10 years. Some are rationing (their insulin) and trying to spread it out and they are dying from not having enough.”
Bentley also introduced this past session HB 64, or Kevin’s Law, which allows pharmacists to dispense medications in the smallest supply available for emergencies. It allows trained medical providers to use their education and resources to properly serve patients.
It is named after an Ohio man, Kevin Houdeshell, who died after running out of insulin on New Year’s Eve in 2013. HB 64 passed both chambers with only yes votes.
Like Rogers, David Johnson, creator of Richmond-based group Kentuckians for Affordable Insulin as well as an active advocate of HB 105, he too receives the $25 coupon for his insulin for a 30 day supply.
Johnson was diagnosed with latent autoimmune diabetes (LADA), or Type 1 diabetes in 2013, and created the group this summer, that already has more than 400 followers and a goal to make insulin affordable, or free.
“It’s for Kentucky, by Kentucky,” he said. “We want people to get involved because this isn’t just affecting me, it affects everyone with diabetes.”
The group helped draft HB 105, which is modeled after Colorado’s HB 1216, the first of its kind in the nation, and caps insulin co-pays at $100 regardless of how many vials are needed. HB 1216 was signed in May by Colorado Governor Jared Polis.
Johnson reached out to officials in Colorado to get information about the bill, and spoke with State Rep. Deanna Frazier, R-Richmond, who then introduced the draft to Bentley.
“I need help, I can’t do it alone,” Johnson said.
He encouraged those with diabetes to take advantage of some free services, including asking doctors for samples or getting free diabetic screenings from their local health department. People can also ask their doctors if they can qualify for any assistance.
Johnson said that he hopes to see happen is that officials don’t play politics when it comes to discussing HB 105.
“This affects everyone, I just would really love to see the bill pass,” he said.
To follow Kentuckians for Affordable Insulin, visit https://www.facebook.com/kyforinsulin/.
Reach Taylor Six at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter at @TaylorSixRR.