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New legislation hopes to cut the cost of insulin for New Yorkers

US Senate Majority Leady Chuck Schumer holds a vial of insulin to underscore the Affordable Insulin Now Act.
Racquel Stephen
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer holds a vial of insulin to underscore the Affordable Insulin Now Act.

Francine Camacho sat in her wheelchair, raising an insulin pen in each hand.

“These two insulins would cost me $500,” Camacho said. “Now, this one alone cost $500, and this one is $295.”

Camacho said she pays $800 for a refill roughly every three months, a price she described as horrifying.

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“I just don’t know what to do,” she said.

Camacho is one of 105,000 Finger Lakes residents with type 1 or type 2 diabetes who can look forward to lower insulin prices if Congress passes pending legislation.

The Affordable Insulin Now Act would improve access to insulin and guarantee that families will not have to ration this product because of high cost.

“The bill would ensure once and for all, that families never have to make the choice of food on the table, or insulin in your bloodstream,” said U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, who will call for a Senate vote in March.

The New York Democrat talked about the pending legislation on Monday in Rochester during a news conference at Lifespan.

The bill would place a $35 cap on out-of-pocket costs for insulin per month. For people without insurance, insulin can normally cost $300 to $600 a month. The price has been increasing by 15% to 17% per year since 2012, according to Schumer.

“When it comes to insulin, and controlling diabetes, if we aren’t able to have cost effective medication therapy that patients can access, it can have both short- and long-term unintended consequences,” said Erica Dobson, a pharmacist for University of Rochester Medical Center who works directly with diabetic patients.

She said that patients often complain to her about the high out-of-pocket cost of their medicine. Dobson added that reducing those direct costs to patients will help them have access to therapies that are required.

“This will improve their health and their safety,” Dobson said.

Greg Best has been living with type 1 diabetes for 20 years. He's had to walk away from his medicine while at the pharmacy because of pricing.

“Imagine getting to the checkout and they say, ‘This was $50, but now it's going to be $500,’” he said.

Schumer said the Affordable Insulin Now Act is being met with bipartisan support and he anticipates it will pass within the next several months.

“No Rochester family should have to go bankrupt just because they need insulin to survive,” he said.

Racquel Stephen is WXXI's health, equity and community reporter and producer. She holds a bachelor's degree in English literature from the University of Rochester and a master's degree in broadcasting and digital journalism from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University.