Bipartisan bill would set cap on insulin costs in South Carolina

A vial of insulin, pictured Dec. 2, 2021
A vial of insulin, pictured Dec. 2, 2021(Mary Green)
Published: Dec. 3, 2021 at 7:58 PM EST|Updated: Dec. 3, 2021 at 8:12 PM EST
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Millions of Americans rely on insulin every day to manage diabetes, but some report having to spend hundreds of dollars a month on this essential prescription.

“I personally have seen a lot of fluctuation in the last few years in those insulin prices,” Lauren Cafaro of West Columbia said.

Multiple injections of two different types of insulin are part of Cafaro’s daily routine, having been diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes as a child.

Now as an adult, insulin isn’t just part of her schedule: It’s also a fixture in her budget.

Cafaro said she is fortunate this necessity is one she can afford.

“You’ll see that a lot of Type 1 diabetics that can’t afford their insulin will skip insulin doses, end up in the emergency room,” she said.

At this point, at least 20 states and the District of Columbia have passed laws that set a limit on the out-of-pocket co-pay that people with diabetes pay each month for insulin, according to the American Diabetes Association.

A bipartisan push aims to enact a similar measure in South Carolina.

“I think it’s needed because people have reached out to me, and people have reached out to other representatives and said, ‘Hey, we need some help on this. It is a concern,’” Rep. Jeff Johnson, R – Horry, said.

Johnson is the lead sponsor of H. 4245, introduced this past spring in the first year of the current two-year legislative session, which would prevent individual and group health insurers, including the State Health Plan, from passing on an out-of-pocket co-pay of more than $100 a month for insulin, regardless of the amount or type of insulin needed for their prescription.

“This bill, if it does get enacted and becomes law in the state of South Carolina, it’s going to help some families and also help families in the future, whenever those children become older and they get off of these policies and have to go out and find their own policies,” Johnson said.

The bill has been assigned to the House Labor, Commerce and Industry Committee and still needs approval from the House of Representatives and Senate, along with Gov. Henry McMaster’s signature, to become law. Johnson said he will be pushing for that to happen within the next few months, after lawmakers return to Columbia for their regular legislative session in January.

Cafaro said she believes the bill would be “a great start” for South Carolina.

“When you have a disease that is unexpected and the trials and tribulations of that — to have something that you know is going to be at that price and that’s what you’re going to have to pay,” she said.

But she hopes this is start of more assistance and advocacy for diabetics in South Carolina, along with more widespread education about diabetes.

“We’re putting a lot of efforts as far as healthcare into a lot of other serious issues, and Type 1 diabetes is a serious issue,” Cafaro said.

President Joe Biden’s multi-trillion-dollar social spending bill, the Build Back Better Act, also currently includes a provision that would cap insulin co-pays at $35 a month nationwide. So far that bill has passed the U.S. House of Representatives but faces a tougher task to get through the Senate.

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