Over the past year, insulin has jumped to the forefront of the health care conversations going on in this state. We have all heard stories of Minnesotans struggling to afford their insulin prescriptions, as prices have dramatically risen across Minnesota.
So where are we as of today?
Blue Cross Blue Shield is the latest insurer to announce that they would guarantee coverage of insulin in 2020 with a $0 copay at the pharmacy counter. This is good news for Minnesota and marks the third insurer – after Medica and UCare – to help reduce the cost of insulin for Minnesotans. There are still more providers out there, but this may signal a market trend which the others will follow.
So how did we get there? Why are we seeing the market correct itself without the need for crushing, cost increasing, government mandates?
Well, this session, we took several positive steps. The Senate required pharmacies to provide access to insulin and other life-saving drugs. We stopped health plans from making a profit on the sale of insulin, and we also ensured there was better communication from health plans to consumers about the pricing, rebates and discounts available to users of these lifesaving drugs.
Insurers have also applauded past Republican reforms as a deciding influence in their decisions. Not only did the 2017 reinsurance program result in double-digit decreases in the individual market insurance rates, but is now being credited by insurers for helping them absorb the costs of insulin price reductions, so premiums for other customers will not increase.
The answer to our health care problems is not always more government, as some leaders in Minnesota would have you believe. In fact, insulin prices only began to skyrocket after President Obama’s Affordable Care Act went into effect.
So, what’s next?
While this is a definite turn in the right direction, it is not the end of reforms needed for insulin or other lifesaving drugs. The legislature still has work to do in the upcoming year, but these policy changes by our insurance companies protect against snap decisions giving members the time to develop additional sensible and efficient reforms that will bring down cost without jeopardizing care options or increasing costs for others.