‘This disease affects anyone’ – Diabetic emergency leads to Texas Rep. James Talarico’s bill to cap insulin costs

Texas Politics

AUSTIN (Nexstar) — A Texas lawmaker’s personal story about an emergency hospitalization is drawing attention to his effort to cap insulin prices for diabetics.

As State Rep. James Talarico was campaigning in the 2018 election for the seat he currently holds, he decided to walk the distance of his district to campaign. He was healthy, fit and young, so he did not anticipate any issues.

“I hiked Big Bend every year, I wasn’t worried about a 25-mile walk,” Talarico said.

But during the 25-mile walk, Talarico started feeling sick.

“I started to feel nauseous and fatigued… When I got home, I though all I needed was a good night’s sleep.”

He thought he was just dehydrated. He ended up sleeping for 36 hours.

It turned out he was in a state of diabetic ketoacidosis. After being rushed to the emergency room, Talarico found out his blood glucose levels were 900 — over 10 times normal levels — and was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes on the spot.

Talarico was able to get the help and medical attention he needed to recover and live a relatively normal life today. But he was surprised at the high cost of the insulin he needs. His first month’s supply cost him close to $700 — and he found he’s not alone.

“Since I shared my own story, this week, my office has been flooded with calls and emails and social media messages from folks who suffer from this condition. And from folks whose family members have diabetes, a lot of parents whose children have Type 1 diabetes as well,” Talarico said. “And they were so thankful that someone had spoken about this disease and about their own experience. But most of all, they’re thankful that someone is finally taking action to address this, this skyrocketing cost of insulin.”

The cost of insulin has increased 1,200% in the past 20 years, which is why Talarico filed House Bill 40 to cap the out-of-pocket cost at $50 for a month’s supply. HB 40 also caps the out-of-pocket cost for insulin supplies, such as needles, sensors and meters.

As of Friday, 103 Texas House members signed onto the bill, giving it a super majority of support. Although HB 40 has bipartisan and bicameral support, some critics say it focuses too much on insurance companies without holding drug manufacturers responsible.

“The blame doesn’t just fall on the manufacturers,” Talarico parries. “In some cases, insulin products have actually decreased in price yet out of pocket costs have increased over the past few years. So health insurance companies also carry some of the blame with this problem.”

Talarico acknowledged that insulin pricing is a complex problem. He sees HB 40 as one part of the solution.

“This is just a step toward our eventual goal, which is free insulin and free insulin supplies for Texans with diabetes,” Talarico said.

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