The Recent "Insulin Bill" and Its Collateral Consequences
Recently the Record Journal published a letter titled, “Fishbein Doesn’t Represent Me” and the Cheshire Herald published the same letter, using the title “Local Voter Disappointed in Fishbein Vote on Insulin Caps.” Within it, the writer, who to my memory has never reached out to me on this, or any other issue, faulted me for voting, “against the bill supporting price caps for insulin.” The bill in question was HB6003, titled, “An Act Concerning Diabetes and High Deductible Plans.” The writer explains her support for the bill stating, “[d]rug companies have increased the price of insulin exponentially over the past few years, even though the drug itself is decades old,” implying that this bill somehow reined in those prices. However, that is just not true as this bill did nothing to stop, curtail, or limit a drug company from charging what it wants for insulin. You can read the bill here:
Instead, what a portion of this bill did was to restrict health insurance companies from charging certain co-pays for insulin. It totally left big pharma alone to charge the high prices of which the writer complains. Nonetheless, to some, the government prohibiting a certain co-pay for a certain drug may seem, on its face, to be helpful, however, in actuality it is problematic for most – including even those that do not use insulin.
When a drug manufacturer sets a high price for their life-saving product (here insulin), the purchaser (the health insurance company) still has to pay that higher price. When government restricts the health insurance company as to the amount of co-pay it can charge the end user (the patient), the health insurance company still has to pay the full price to the manufacturer. So, from my perspective, where does the insurance company get the money to make up the difference? Yes! It raises insurance premiums for everyone! Therefore, passage of this bill most likely will lead to higher insurance premiums for everyone - a ramification secretly admitted to by many legislators. Additionally, health insurance companies will raise deductibles, directly impacting people on “high deductible plans” – usually those low wage earners that make slightly more than the maximum to qualify for a non-deductible plan.
Finally, even though the bill passed on July 23, 2020, this provision does not even go into place for well over a year from now (January 1, 2022)! I suspect that that implementation date was selected for exactly the reason(s) I cited. It is more than enough time for the health insurance companies to raise premiums for many, and increase deductibles for low income earners whether or not they use insulin. So, when the writer alleges that I voted against an “insulin price cap,” that is supposed to take effect well over a year from now, the fact is that what I actually voted for was lower (or at least stabler) health insurance premiums and deductibles for most, right now.
The letter writer also seems to find disfavor in the fact that I was one of a few members of the legislature to vote against this bill, apparently wanting me to vote for it just because others did. I do not vote for or against bills just because others do or do not. Similarly, I do not vote against bills just because others do. I usually read the bills that I vote on, knowing that my constituents want an informed vote as opposed to a vote just because others voted a certain way. I would ask the same of those that represent me. That comes with the job.
I am contacted on a daily basis by people on various matters involving state and local government. These contacts come through emails, telephone calls, letters, in-person meetings and, in some instances through social media. Instead of waiting until a couple of months before an election to write a letter to the newspaper, it perhaps would have been helpful if the letter writer had contacted me at some point during the last year to discuss this bill. If that had happened, perhaps I would have been able to ease her misconceptions about it, and she would have had the opportunity to explain to me why it is good to have increased health insurance premiums and deductibles today in exchange for capped co-pays for insulin over a year from now. Additionally, why is it good governance to get involved with the insulin purchases, but not in those involving other lifesaving medicines and supplies? Or is that really just the end goal here?
I know that many of my constituents are still out of work due to the COVID-19 pandemic. I know that many of my constituents were financially impacted even before the pandemic. I know that the last thing my constituents need is increased costs for medical care – increases that most certainly will result from the passage of HB6003, and therefore I voted no.