Look to Diabetes Meds for “Entitlement” Cuts

As a diabetic, I have to take insulin, and for most of the year I get it free through my Medicare Advantage plan. But when I get into the “doughnut hole,” I pay about half of the cost. This year, I found myself in the dougnut hole surprisingly early. It didn’t take long to find out why.

The price of the insulin I take – Novolin or Humulin – has more than doubled. At least, that’s what CVS charges. Walmart sells its house brand of Novolin for about what I used to pay a couple of years ago.

The trouble is that the Walmart brand – Reliant – hasn’t worked as well as the brand I get from CVS. I seem to be taking a lot more insulin to achieve the same blood-sugar level.

From what I’ve been able to find out on the web, only two companies make insulin in America – Novo Nordisk and Eli Lilly & Company –  and neither one releases “historical” price information.  But my recollection is that just a few years ago Novolin cost about $30 per vial. Now, the cost generally ranges (according to the pharmacy) from $76 at Winn-Dixie to more than a hundred dollars at Publix. One pharmacist told me the pharmacies can buy it for about $60.

It’s highly improbable that the cost of  making insulin has risen that much in a few years.

What I suspect is that the insulin producers are taking advantage of the Medicare Part D program to rake in exorbitant profits. It seems that the price of anything goes up when the government starts paying for it.

For example, Medicare pays for my diabetes testing supplies, and I am staggered by the prices I see on the receipts. My last order – from a company called Edgepark – totaled more than $400 and all I got were testing strips and a couple of boxes of syringes. That seems very pricey to me.

(By the way, did you know we diabetics can buy insulin over the counter but need a prescription for syringes? What do the authorities ecpect us to do, drink the stuff?)

As the people in Washington who are charged with running our lives claw and scratch over taxes, the “fiscal cliff” and so on, I would recommend that they take a look at diabetes care as a way of cutting government costs. I suspect there’s a scam going on.

Indeed, diabetes might not be the only area worth investigating. I read the other day that someone had found a cure for cancer but no drug company would fund its development. And, while that could be just another conspiracy legend, I wouldn’t be surprised if the story turned out to be true.

Think of all the money being made on cancer treatments. Do you suppose that the folks who run the world would give up this source of revenue just to save our lives? It’s like the stories you hear about engines that run on water or use a gallon of gas every 100 miles, or whatever. I don’t think the oil companies are likely to let that kind of thing get on the market if they can help it.

I suspect the same holds true for diabetes. They will probably never come up with a cure. It would be like killing the goose that lays the golden eggs.

But, in the meantime, President Obama and his crew would do well to check out the price of things like insulin and diabetes testing strips. I am confident they would find “entitlement savings” to sweeten their “fiscal cliff” deal -without having to tamper with the benefits seniors like me depend on (or raising the eligibility age for Medicare).

Click here to read about the “doughnut hole.”

gwgraeme

I am a Jamaican-born writer who has lived and worked in Canada and the United States. I live in Lakeland, Florida with my wife, Sandra, our three cats and two dogs. I like to play golf and enjoy our garden, even though it's a lot of work. Since retiring from newspaper reporting I've written a few books. I also write a monthly column for Jamaicans.com

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