SPRINGFIELD — A bill to cap out-of-pocket insulin costs for diabetics at $100 a month easily passed a Senate committee Monday, the first day of the General Assembly’s fall veto session.
What was predicted to be a quiet fall session took a sudden turn to the dramatic with word that a Democratic House member was being charged in federal court with allegedly trying to bribe a state senator to help pass some gambling legislation. House Speaker Michael Madigan said he wanted Rep. Luis Arroyo of Chicago to resign from the House or face ouster.
Both the House and Senate spent time in private meetings Monday to review what issues they planned to address during the short six-day veto session.
One of those is a bill sponsored by Sen. Andy Manar, D-Bunker Hill, to cap insulin costs for diabetics. Costs of insulin have skyrocketed in the past decade, leading to charges from some that pharmaceutical companies are gouging diabetics who need the drug to survive.
“We all have stories from constituents in the districts that we represent on how out-of-pocket costs for insulin, which is a necessary drug for those that are diabetic to stay alive, as to how out-of-pockets costs have gone up in recent years,” Manar said.
A vial of one type of insulin costs $35 in Canada while the same drug costs $135 in the U.S. Many Illinois residents can pay $500 to $900 a month out of their own pockets for insulin.
The bill caps those out-of-pocket costs for a 30-day supply at $100. As currently written, if approved the the law would not take effect until 2021 and would only apply to insurance plans regulated by the state, something an opponent said would only cover about 20 percent of diabetics. Federal law prohibits the proposal from covering more insurance plans.
Sen. Chapin Rose, R-Mahomet, asked about a counter-proposal that would cap costs on a per-prescription basis rather than a monthly basis, which would affect people who may have multiple insulin prescriptions. Manar countered that it would result in a “dramatic difference” in costs for individual patents.
Sen. Dave Syverson, R-Rockford, warned that imposing the cap will “clearly affect small group health (insurance) rates.” But while he voted against the bill in committee, Syverson said he thinks the bill can be tweaked to minimize problems.
Peter Fotos of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of American said many companies offer financial assistance to people for their drug cost. His own organization launched a program in May to help those who are uninsured and underinsured.
Manar said he plans to call the bill for a vote in the full Senate this week. If it is approved, it would go to the House for consideration. Manar said there is still time to refine the bill before it would get a final vote.
A bill to ban flavored tobacco and vaping products in the state did not come up for a House committee vote Monday. Instead, the Senate will take a first crack at the legislation. A bill to ban the products is scheduled to be heard in a Senate committee Tuesday morning.
Rep. Deb Conroy, D-Villa Park, said she expects the Senate version to mirror her bill in the House. That would include a ban on menthol cigarettes and snuff.
“My personal feeling is if we’re going to do this for vaping, if we don’t do it with menthol cigarettes we’re sending everybody directly back to smoking,” Conroy said.
The vaping industry has promoted itself as a way for tobacco users to stop smoking combustible tobacco.
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