Over 50,000 Utahns depend on insulin to stay alive. Unfortunately, 1 in 4 Utahns take less insulin than they need to manage their diabetes properly because their monthly cost on insulin alone can be thousands of dollars. Utahns should not lose their lives because they cannot afford the insulin they need to survive.
After many emotional months of fighting hard for accessible and affordable insulin legislation, Utah won a victory March 30, 2020 when House Bill 207, known as the Insulin Access Amendments, was signed into law by Governor Gary Herbert. This victory was thanks in part to the strong advocacy of thousands of Utahns and to Representative Norman Thurston’s dedicated leadership on drafting lifesaving legislation. This legislation passed with strong bipartisan support through the House with a 69-3 vote and passed unanimously in the Senate.
HB207 will provide a comprehensive set of solutions to address the main barriers that are causing Utahns to go without needed insulin. This bill:
Plans must choose to:
Unfortunately, there’s no way of knowing how this bill will affect every insulin dependent patient with diabetes until patients start going to the pharmacy counter to purchase their insulin, but we are hopeful that no more lives will be lost because someone can’t afford their life-sustaining insulin.
This was our Chapter’s first legislative session, and none of our Chapter members had any prior experience doing advocacy work. We had the will and determination to fight, and our collective efforts helped us to keep going and ensure meaningful change for people with diabetes. The bipartisan support on this bill was amazing. Our Utah #insulin4all Chapter created bonds with many legislators, and we hope that the lawmakers that we befriended will continue to be strong allies in the fight for affordable insulin in future legislative sessions, as well.
Our biggest obstacle during the legislative session came right after the bill was passed through committee in the Senate. By that point, the bill had already passed through the House. Unfortunately, the Senate Majority Leader, Evan Vickers, attached an amendment to the bill that reduced the emergency refill days to 30 instead of 90. Our Chapter was pretty upset about this, as we firmly believe that 90-day refills were in the best interest of patients. We came together as a Chapter and spent all day at the Capitol building meeting with senators fighting to keep the 90 days. By the end of the day, Senator Vickers decided to meet us in the middle with 60 days. We appreciated Senator Vickers’ willingness to compromise – while it’s not quite the amount that we wanted, it’s still a victory for patients. And the compromise further demonstrated to us the importance of fighting for what was right – had we given up, we would have had to settle for half of what we ended up winning.
A few words of advice I would give to other advocates would be that you should be as loud as you possibly can. Grow close relationships with the media and be sure that patient stories are highlighted in the news. Find that one representative who will listen. I know this can be hard. Rep. Thurston is not in my district, but I reached out to him because I knew he had experience in health policy and a passion for wanting affordable prescriptions in Utah.
I could not be prouder of the support and hard fight by our Chapter members. Whenever there was a need to reach out to legislators, they were all right there to call or send emails. Utah is known to come together in a crisis and this insulin legislation is a fine example of this. Although HB207 is considered by some to be one of the most comprehensive insulin bills to pass in the United States, our work is not done in Utah. Our Chapter has set some new goals. We hope to ask our representatives for stronger legislation next legislative session for the uninsured and insured. Sadly, many Utahns are losing their jobs right now due to the pandemic and we want to fight hard for them. Another big goal we have is to ensure affordable lifesaving supplies. You can bet that we will be back next legislative session to fight harder. Our community deserves the best.