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Bill to charge fee on insulin manufacturers and distributors draws online debate

A bill proposed by Senate Democrats to place a fee on the manufacturers and distributors of insulin caught much social media attention that led one state senator to post a video on Facebook claiming the accusation he is supporting an “insulin tax” is “BS.”

The proposed bill, An Act Concerning the Manufacture and Distribution of Insulin, directs the commissioner of consumer protection – in consultation with the social services commissioner and insurance commissioner – to “impose a fee on the manufacture and distribution of insulin.”

The CT GOP tweeted out an image of the bill and it quickly made the rounds on social media, with many arguing that it is essentially taxing insulin and will drive up costs for those who need the life-saving medication.

Rep. Craig Fishbein, R-Wallingford, tweeted out “Just when you thought your life saving medications were safe from the Democrats (BOOM!) they suddenly appear to tax, and tax, and tax once AGAIN!”

Sen. Matthew Lesser, D-Middletown, took to his Facebook page and posted a video saying that the accusation the bill is an “insulin tax” is “BS.” 

“There’s no truth to it,” Lesser said in his video. “We’re looking to make sure that we can cap out of pocket costs for people who are struggling with skyrocketing insulin prices. This is something that other states have done on a bipartisan basis.”

Likewise, Senate Democrats released a video and graphics saying the bill is meant to cap costs at the consumer level and that the fee is for “bad-acting manufacturers and distributors of insulin who aren’t transparent about their costs.” 

Senate Democrats also tweeted out a 2019 letter from Sen. Saud Anwar, D-Windsor, to the chairpersons of the Public Health Committee urging a cap on the total amount an individual is required to pay for insulin and to instruct the Attorney General of Connecticut to investigate the rising price of insulin.

How the fee on manufacturers and distributors plays into a price cap is unknown. It is only a proposed bill and lacks details at this point, and there is no mention of a price cap.

However, bills proposed in other states may offer clues.

House Democrats in Minnesota proposed a fee on manufacturers and distributors to raise an estimated $10 million per year to fund the cost of administering a program that would provide people who don’t qualify for assistance to get short-term insulin supplies for free.

Only Illinois and Colorado have thus far passed insulin cost caps, but several other states have bills filed. 

Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker just signed an insulin price cap into law on January 24 limiting the out-of-pocket cost of insulin to $100 for a 30-day supply. Colorado did the same in 2019. Neither of the nearly-identical bills contained a fee on manufacturers and distributors, but rather required the Attorney General to investigate insulin pricing.

However, a Minnesota bill that failed due to partisan disagreements on funding might shed some light on the proposed fee.

House Democrats in Minnesota proposed a fee on manufacturers and distributors to raise an estimated $10 million per year to fund the cost of administering a program that would provide people who don’t qualify for assistance to get short-term insulin supplies for free.

Kentucky lawmakers have also proposed a price cap which requires manufacturers and distributors to issue rebates to customers who pay over $100 in expenses, but the bill has not yet passed.

Whether the proposed fee in Connecticut would support a similar program – or any program at all — is yet to be known, but Senate Democrats, in their online posts, are tying the fee to a price cap on out-of-pocket insulin costs. It is also unclear at this point what qualifies a company as a “bad actor.”

A 2019 report by the Health Care Cost Institute found insulin prices had doubled between 2012 and 2016, with average out-of-pocket costs going from $2,864 to $5705.

Sen. Lesser did not yet return a request for comment.

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(3) Comments

  1. Edward J Max

    February 11, 2020 1:00 pm

    Sen. Matthew Lesser, I don’t believe you. I have lost all faith in you. Do the right thing and resign…..give someone else a chance.

  2. Dr. Linda S Alexander

    February 8, 2020 1:26 pm

    To the Democratic Senators co-signing the bill, why not state your intention and word the proposed bill properly the first time if you intend something other than what is stated in the proposed bill. One way or the other imposing fees and taxes is unlikely to result in the desired outcome and there is always the unintended consequences of all such legislation.

  3. rich

    February 7, 2020 7:18 pm

    We don’t need legislators to collect a fee so they can earmark it and re-distribute it to insulin users. It will be eventually placed in the general fund and those in need will pay higher prices. Believe me, that’s the same old trick used in Ct when they started the lottery. That money
    was supposed to go to education, it did for awhile. ……

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