Community Columns

Helping Valley people manage the cost of insulin

Middle-class families are being devastated by the staggering cost of life-saving insulin. While the average person spends about $1,025 per year on medication, many people with diabetes who use insulin are often required by their health insurance plans to spend five times that amount on a treatment they cannot live without.

Today, more than 6 million Americans depend on insulin to manage their diabetes. These are women, men and children who often require one or more insulin shots a day. Increasingly, many are choosing to forego their insulin or to ration doses, risking greater health problems and even death. The cause? Insufficient prescription drug coverage by insurance carriers.

Lost in this complex world of diabetes, amid the blame game and finger-pointing, are programs created by pharmaceutical manufacturers to help patients enrolled in private health insurance plans who cannot afford their prescriptions. Many insurers and pharmacy benefits managers too often fail to let patients know some programs can lower their costs.

Copay assistance cards, also called copay coupons, can help take the financial sting out of the cost of medication. To obtain one, patients must go to the insulin manufacturer’s website and search for financial or copay assistance programs, complete an application, and enroll. It’s not always as easy as it sounds, but it’s always worth the effort. GoodRx may also offer copay programs on its website that can help .

All of this can be a bit complicated; many people get frustrated and give up. Don’t!

The value of copay assistance is this: it lowers the cost you pay and may even cover all the cost. The pharmaceutical company covers the difference. Typically, you don’t even have to prove that paying your regular copay would present a financial hardship. These programs are usually not available to Medicare recipients, however.

To help people in the California Central Valley afford their insulin, we looked up programs offered by pharmaceutical companies that manufacture insulin and provide links here:

This list (see below) is not exhaustive. Some people also use the website NeedyMeds as a great source of information about Patient Assistance and copay assistance programs.

For the uninsured, there are other programs that often cover close to 100% of the cost. The NeedyMeds website is a great place to find this information, or try this website,, offered by the pharmaceutical manufacturers trade association. It is very robust too.

Before filling your insulin prescription or any prescription medication, check to see if the pharmaceutical manufacturer offers a copay assistance program. If you need help, remember your pharmacist is another excellent resource and may be able to answer your questions.

While Congress and other elected officials play the blame game, we remain focused on helping people better understand the healthcare maze, get the help you need and let others just keep on talking.

Jeffrey Lewis is president and CEO of Legacy Health Endowment in Turlock. He wrote this for The Modesto Bee.

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