MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WIAT) — In President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address Tuesday, he called on Congress to make insulin more affordable for all Americans, not just seniors on Medicare.
Insulin is a life-sustaining drug for those with diabetes. But it can be a financial burden for many, with its cost having skyrocketed in recent years.
FMS Pharmacy in Bessemer fills multiple prescriptions for insulin every day. Pharmacist Anthony Bolus says its price varies widely based on a person’s condition, but overall, it’s not cheap.
“The most common agents are going to be the most expensive ones. Like I said, it can range anywhere from $200 up to $700, $800 per vial,” Bolus said.
Bolus says without insurance, some patients struggle to pay, or sometimes stretch out their medicine in ways it’s not prescribed.
“Having to pay out of pocket for insulin is really unfortunate. They’re not going to get the care that they need,” Bolus said.
For seniors on Medicare, the drug’s cost is now capped at $35 a month under the Inflation Reduction Act. That took effect in January.
“This is so important for Medicare beneficiaries because we know that inflation has taken a large bite out of their budgets,” AARP Alabama Communications Director Jamie Harding said.
Harding says currently about 63,000 seniors in Alabama who are insulin-dependent benefit from that cap. She says it makes a huge difference for those living on a fixed income.
“We’ve heard too many stories unfortunately of people rationing their insulin or skipping doses, with deadly effects,” Harding said. “So, we’re grateful to see that that will not have to be the case for folks over 65,” Harding said.
Harding says she supports efforts to make that cap apply to all Americans.
While President Biden in his speech touted lower insulin costs for seniors, he said Congress needs to “finish the job” and extend that cap to all Americans — a move Bolus says he’d support.
“It would be a great benefit for all patients to have. Right now, it’s just Medicare patients. But it’s certainly a step in the right direction to make insulin much more affordable,” Bolus said.
According to the CDC , Alabama has the third highest rate of diabetes in the country, behind Louisiana and Mississippi.