Insulin-cost relief not afforded to privately insured Tennesseans

FRANKLIN, Tenn. (WTVF) — Only some people are getting a break after Congress passed insulin-cost relief on Friday.

Tennesseans with private insurance will not see a change because the legislation excluded certain patient populations.

On Friday, the US House passed the Inflation Reduction Act, which limits how much Medicare recipients pay for insulin. The effort to extend that to patients covered by private insurers was stopped in the US Senate. Tennessee’s two senators Marsha Blackburn and Bill Hagerty were among those who voted against the provision.

“If someone in a position of power were to make insulin available for normal people like me at a lower cost, what would that do for their lives?” asked Karen Joy Thomas, an insulin-dependent diabetic.

Karen Joy Thomas is a theater teacher in Middle Tennessee. She has to keep her energy up.

“One of the most important things for a diabetic’s long-term health is having a steady control of your blood sugar, and to have that you need to have regular insulin,” said Thomas.

She has private insurance. Nearly 20% of her annual income goes towards insulin and pump supplies.

“I don’t have to ration my insulin. I give myself insulin when I need it, and when I hear about people who have had to ration their insulin because it costs too much… that kind of breaks my heart. It seems like we have enough really, really smart people in our country that we could figure something out,” she said.

Thomas said it’s not unheard of to pay $125 a month just for insulin. Without the right amount of insulin, complications could include heart disease, stroke, amputation, end-stage kidney disease and blindness.

According to the American Diabetes Association, approximately 730,416 people in Tennessee, or 13.6% of the adult population, have been diagnosed with diabetes. Like the rest of the country, most Tennesseans have private insurance. Therefore, most people with diabetes in Tennessee will not reap the benefits of the insulin-cost relief passed by Congress. Those people with Medicare can expect to see insulin capped in 2023.

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