(Apr. 12) – The House approved a set of bills that looks to curb the cost of insulin, invest more in primary care and decrease the maternal mortality rate.

Rep. Dylan Roberts and Rep. Yadira Caraveo sponsored a bill to reduce the price of life-saving insulin for people with diabetes in Colorado. Over 420,000 Coloradans have diabetes and an additional 20,000 Coloradans are diagnosed with diabetes every year.

“A small vial of medicine has such a large impact on someone’s life. For people with Type 1 Diabetes, insulin is the same as oxygen, you need it to survive,” said Rep. Roberts, D-Avon. “This is a life-saving and life-sustaining drug but the skyrocketing cost of insulin is outrageous and it is literally putting people’s lives at risk.”

HB19-1216 caps the total co-pay that patients will pay for insulin to $100 per one-month supply, regardless of how much insulin is being dispensed. This is down from an average out-of-pocket cost of $600-900 per month that Coloradans currently face.

Colorado’s kids are paying for this with their fingers, toes, kidneys, hearts and with their lives,” said Rep. Yadira Caraveo, D-Thornton, who is the only medical doctor in the legislature. “The game is rigged against consumers, patients and parents. This bill will put tools in place to investigate the high cost of this life-saving drug.”

The bill also directs the Colorado Attorney General’s office to investigate business practices, organization, pricing and data of pharmaceutical manufacturers, pharmacy benefit managers, insurance carriers and any other entity that influences insulin costs. It also directs the office to create a report that explores possible legislative solutions. The report will be submitted to the governor, the commissioner of insurance, and the House and Senate judiciary committees in 2020.

The cost of insulin rose by 45 percent between 2014 and 2017 and by over 700 percent over the last 20 years while the actual product of insulin has not changed in any significant way since 1996. One-in-four type-1 diabetics report rationing their insulin due to the high cost of the drug.

A bipartisan bill sponsored by Rep. Janet Buckner, D-Aurora, also passed that looks to address the increasing rate of maternal deaths. This bill will allow the Maternal Mortality Review Committee (MMRC) to review cases of maternal deaths in a timely manner to then work on ways to lower these deaths.

“Colorado’s maternal mortality has increased at an alarming rate – it’s doubled since 2008. Eighty percent of these maternal deaths could have been avoided,” said Rep. Buckner. “It is past time that we work together to stop what is preventable and save lives.”

HB19-1122 also imposes diversity requirements for the committee as the maternal mortality rate is higher among African-American women and women in urban areas.

The House also gave approval to a bipartisan bill with Rep. Meg Froelich, D-Englewood, and Rep. Yadira Caraveo, D-Thornton, to lower health care costs and improve the quality of care that Coloradans receive.

“Lowering the cost of health care for hardworking families is a top priority for us at the legislature,” said Rep. Froelich.  “Robust primary care practices produce better health outcomes and reduce costs.”

Colorado only invests roughly seven to ten percent of its health care dollars on primary care.

HB19-1233 establishes a primary care payment reform collaborative in the Division of Insurance in the Department of Regulatory Agencies. It also requires the commissioner of insurance to establish affordability standards for premiums, including adding targets for carrier investments in primary care. Finally, it requires the Department of Health Care Policy and Financing and carriers who offer health benefit plans to state employees to set targets for investment in primary care.

The goal of primary care is to achieve better health outcomes by improving the quality and consistency of care so that both patients and the health care system can see a reduction in costs. Primary care visits comprise 53 percent of all health care appointments.

All bills were approved on a voice-vote. A will be done at a later date.

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