Diabetes is a common medical condition in this country where the patients need regular access to insulin injections in order to keep their bodies from deteriorating. Unfortunately, prices for insulin have skyrocketed since 2012. Many people’s insurances don’t cover enough of the cost, generics have become less and less available due to changes in the patent, and that means people have died.
Over at NPR, there is a horrifying story of how the greed of the medical industry caused the death of Alec Raeshawn Smith, who was a couple of days short of payday and who died of diabetic ketoacidosis.
Smith-Holt says she and Alec started reviewing his options in February 2017, three months before his birthday on May 20. Alec's pharmacist told him his diabetes supplies would cost $1,300 a month without insurance — most of that for insulin. His options with insurance weren't much better.
Alec's yearly salary as a restaurant manager was about $35,000. Too high to qualify for Medicaid and, Smith-Holt says, too high to qualify for subsidies in Minnesota's health insurance marketplace. The plan they found had a $450 premium each month and an annual deductible of $7,600.
"At first, he didn't realize what a deductible was," Smith-Holt says. She says Alec figured he could pick up a part-time job to help cover the $450 per month.
Depending on whom you ask, you'll get a different response for why insulin prices have risen so high. Some blame middlemen — such as pharmacy benefit managers, like Express Scripts and CVS Health — for negotiating lower prices with pharmaceutical companies without passing savings on to customers. Others say patents on incremental changes to insulin have kept cheaper generic versions out of the market.
This is a terrible tale and there are thousands of stories like it all around the country. We can do better and we should do better.