With rising insulin costs attracting more scrutiny, health insurance giant Cigna and its benefits arm are cutting their prices forĀ the life-saving treatment to $25 per month from $42.Ā
Cigna announced the new effort this week to slice 40 percent off the cost under what it’s calling the Patient Assurance Program.Ā
The insurer has about 264,000 customers in South Carolina, a spokeswoman said Thursday. About 9.5 percent, or 25,000, have diabetes.
The companyĀ said it’s lowering the price by reducing co-payments.Ā
āFor people with diabetes, insulin can be as essential as air. We need to ensure these individuals feel secure in their ability to afford every fill so they donāt miss one dose, which can be dangerous for their health,ā Dr. Steve Miller, chief clinical officer for Cigna, said in a statement.Ā
The lower price will be available to certain customers enrolled in a plan through Express Scripts, a pharmacy benefits business that Cigna bought late last year.
Diabetes is particularly prevalent in South Carolina.Ā
Insulin is a hormone made by the pancreas. Diabetics who can’t make enough of it naturally must buy it and take it through an injection or a pump.Ā
But with prices climbing, some patients have had little choice other than to ration the medication.
The cost of insulin nearly tripled from 2002 through 2013, according to the American Diabetes Association.
Cigna is not the first to respond to pressure over high costs of the drug. Pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly began offering a half-price version of its medication called Insulin Lispro in early March. The reduced cost is $137.50 per vial, and a company spokeswoman said the average patient uses two vials per month.Ā
Cigna also wants to help prevent its customers from developing type 2 diabetes, spokeswoman Holly Fussell said. The insurer has formed a partnership with Omada, a behavioral counseling program, to help people lose weight. That service is available to companies that contract with Cigna and their employees.
The move to make insulin more affordable came one day after a hearing in the U.S. House of Representatives addressed “the human impact of rising insulin costs.” Lawmakers remarked on the high list prices, with one noting that some patients are paying more than $400 per month.Ā
Christel Marchand Aprigliano, CEO of the Diabetes Patient Advocacy Coalition, said people who can least afford insulin are paying the highest prices.Ā
At the end of 2011, Aprigliano said the co-payment for her insulin was $40. A month later, that skyrocketed to $1,269.Ā
“I had a new baby and one source of income,” she said. “We had put money aside, and it was meant for emergencies. Our emergency became insulin.”