GREG LOWER

A former Chanute resident testified Wednesday before a Kansas House of Representatives committee about the impact of pharmaceutical costs for diabetes.

Jodi Lucke testified before the House Insurance committee Wednesday afternoon about House Bill 2557, which sets a monthly maximum $100 out-of-pocket cost-share per covered person for prescription insulin drugs.

The bill is sponsored by the Kansas Committee on Insurance, headed by House Majority Leader Jene Vickrey (R-6th District).

Vickrey says that he hopes introducing it will spark discussion about the increasing price of insulin.

“It’s a life-sustaining prescription that people have to have. There are many pharmaceuticals that are the same way, but this one is one that has seen a lot of increase throughout the years and hopefully, we can get our heads around how all it works and the history,” Vickrey explained. “Again, it’s a start.”

Lucke’s husband, Michael, has diabetes. She said her presentation lasted about five minutes and she was one of two speakers to testify during the hour-long hearing, which included questions and answers.

She said members of the committee are aware of the situation,

“It’s a learning process.” 

Lucke spoke on the “donut hole,” a gap between the limits of insurance and Medicare coverage that occurs in March and April.

The Luckes paid $60 per month for insulin before January, when they went on Medicare. In January they faced a $400 deductible for insulin.

She explained the situation during her presentation.

“He turned 65 in November 2019 and January 2020 was his first month on Medicare. Needless-to-say we were not prepared for the cost of his medications in January. With the deductible requirement, his insulin jumped from $60 to $400. That increase was in addition to the $100 in other required diabetes-related medications and the $99 monthly premium for his Medicare Plan D.

“The coverage gap or ‘donut hole’ is reached when with the insurance and the consumer have spent $4,020. To put this in perspective, we picked up $1,600 worth of insulin on Monday and, although only paid $120, it won’t take long before we are in the donut hole. Most plans will pay zero while you are in the donut hole. Some plans pay percentages, all plans are different so we will see what the next few months have in store for us.”

“It’s going to add up,” she told the Tribune. “Kansas needs to follow the state of Colorado.”

She said she emailed officials after facing the $400 deductible, including Rep. Elizabeth Bishop, D-88, of Wichita, who introduced HB2557 on Feb. 4.

Lucke told the lawmakers:

“Back in 1996, when Eli Lilly’s Humalog first came out, the price for a 1-month supply of insulin was $21. Today, vials of analog insulins, including Humalog, sell for about $300. Patients with Type 1 diabetes typically require two or three vials of insulin per month, but patients who are more resistant to insulin, such as those with Type 2 diabetes, may require six or more.

“I am here today, not just for my family, but for all the others that have not been given this opportunity. It is heartbreaking to know that due to the bankrupting effects of insulin costs, many people feel forced to ration their monthly prescriptions or go without. There are too many that are making the decision between purchasing their life-saving insulin or putting food on the table, gas in their car, or paying their utilities.”

Lucke concluded:

“Numerous stories have been published about people who do this and later suffer the ultimate sacrifice: death. It shouldn’t be this difficult. Diabetics shouldn’t have to make a choice that can have such dire consequences and crippling complications.

I’m nobody special. I am not a medical professional or a scientist. I’m just 65-year-old grandmother from Kansas that is fighting for her husband’s survival and the survival of others, many whose faces I haven’t seen and stories I haven’t heard. I urge you to follow step with the states of Colorado and Illinois and legislate a limit on the amount of copay diabetics are facing every month at their pharmacy.”

Lucke had thanked Bishop for the bill and then Sunday Bishop contacted Lucke, which led to her testifying.

“It happened all pretty fast,” Lucke said.

Although they were born and raised in Chanute, Lucke said they moved five years ago to Osage City.

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