While federal and state efforts to limit insulin copayments will help millions of Americans, it may not solve the problem of high costs for people whose insurance doesn’t cover their insulin or the roughly 28 million* Americans without insurance. Walmart is working to help communities fill this gap.
By Dr. Cheryl Pegus, Executive Vice President, Walmart Health & Wellness
We know that people living in rural America are 17% more likely to be diagnosed with diabetes than those in urban areas. For many with diabetes, their health depends on having reliable access to insulin to help control blood sugar levels and prevent complications that diabetes causes.
The average cash price for insulins in the United States in late 2021 had risen more than 40% compared to early 2014. Sadly, but not surprisingly, 1 in 4 individuals with type 1 or type 2 diabetes in the United States resorted to rationing their insulin because of the high cost. The consequences of skipping or reducing insulin treatments can be severe, including increased likelihood of complications such as blindness, amputations, heart attack and kidney failure.
Ensuring access to affordable insulin is a goal we can and should achieve collectively. We are encouraged to see lawmakers at the federal and state levels recognize the urgency to make insulin more affordable. In his recent State of the Union address, President Biden called for a nationwide $35 cap on insulin copayments for those enrolled in private health plans or Medicare. The U.S. House approved a bill that does just that this week while the Senate is pursuing bipartisan agreement on a similar measure.
Unwilling to wait for federal action, 16 states across the country – starting with Colorado in 2019 – have enacted their own caps on insulin copayments, ranging from $25 to $100 a month, for consumers with commercial health insurance. Eight more states are considering legislation to do so this year.
While these federal and state laws limiting insulin copayments will help millions of Americans, they still don’t solve the problem of high insulin costs for people whose insurance doesn’t cover their insulin or the roughly 28 million Americans without insurance. Walmart is helping to fill that gap.
At Walmart, we are using our size and scale to bring down costs for our customers who must pay out of pocket for insulin, providing a more affordable option for those who can’t benefit from copay limits. By working directly with insulin manufacturer Novo Nordisk, we are selling insulin products under our own private ReliOn label that saves customers up to 75% off the cash price of branded analog insulin. That translates to a savings of up to $101 per vial or $251 per package of branded FlexPens®.
ReliOn private label of Novolog (insulin aspart) injection analog insulin in vials and FlexPens® as well as ReliOn NovoLog® Mix 70/30 (insulin aspart protamine and insulin aspart injectable suspension) are available at Walmart and Sam’s Club pharmacies nationwide to anyone with a prescription, regardless of their insurance status. Our suite of more affordable insulin products and diabetes-management devices is part of Walmart’s legacy of introducing innovative solutions that increase access to quality, affordable health care resources, including the industry-leading $4 generic prescription program launched more than a decade ago.
Walmart Health is also looking to better provide for patients with Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes and assist employers and other institutions supporting the specific health needs of their employees by launching the Walmart Health Virtual Care Diabetes Program. Available as a standalone or as part of a comprehensive medical and behavioral telehealth program, the Walmart Health Virtual Care Diabetes Program was developed in partnership with the American Diabetes Association for employers and payors to help their employees and members close gaps in diabetes management among employees and their families through early intervention, which could lead to better health outcomes.
While drug pricing in the United States is complicated and involves many stakeholders, the public’s need for life-saving medications like insulin at predictable and more affordable prices should drive all of us to do more and do better.