April 19, 2022

Senator Hirono Meets with Hawaii Diabetes Advocates to Discuss Need to Cap the Cost of Insulin and Prescription Drugs

HONOLULU, HI – Today, Senator Mazie Hirono (D-HI) held a roundtable discussion with members of the American Diabetes Association Hawaii Chapter on the need to address the rising cost of insulin and other prescription drugs. Last month, Senator Hirono co-sponsored the Affordable Insulin Now Act, legislation to limit out-of-pocket cost of insulin at $35 a month. The conversation is one of several events Senator Hirono is hosting this week focused on lowering costs for working families in Hawaii.

“With the sky-high cost of insulin and other prescription drugs continuing to rise, very few people are able to afford the medications they need to stay healthy,” said Senator Hirono. “That’s unacceptable, which is why I’m fighting to lower the cost of prescription drugs and cap insulin costs at $35 a month. I’m grateful to the American Diabetes Association Hawaii Chapter for their advocacy for the diabetes community, and their partnership as we work to make sure everyone has access to the care and medication they need.”

In Hawaii, 10.5% of individuals over the age of 18 have diabetes. Diabetes is even more prevalent among Hawaii’s Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander populations, with 13.8% of Native Hawaiians and 15.3% of Pacific Islanders living with diabetes.  This legislation will significantly lower costs for these individuals—many whom are paying exorbitantly high prices for this life-saving medication. According to one estimate, diabetics spend close to $6,000 annually on insulin alone. The costs for insulin continues to rise and manufacturers of the drug are pocketing record levels of revenue from insulin sales.

Under the Affordable Insulin Now Act, private group or individual plans would be required to cover one of each insulin dosage form (vial, pen) and insulin type (rapid-acting, short-acting, intermediate-acting, and long-acting) for no more than $35 per month. Medicare Part D plans, both stand-alone drug plans and Medicare Advantage drug plans, would be required to charge no more than $35 for whichever insulin products they cover in 2023 and 2024, and for all insulin products beginning in 2025.

Over the last several years, Senator Hirono has consistently fought to expand access to affordable health care for communities in Hawaii and across the country. In 2017, Hirono introduced a measure to protect access to affordable health care for Americans with pre-existing conditions. Two years later Republicans, yet again, threatened to repeal coverage for millions of Americans with pre-existing conditions and Senator Hirono delivered a floor speech urging the swift passage of a resolution to defend the protections provided under the Affordable Care Act.

In 2021, Senator Hirono introduced legislation that makes all recommended vaccines accessible to Medicare beneficiaries, eliminating unnecessary out-of-pocket expense and enabling people – including elderly, disabled, and chronically ill beneficiaries – to receive vaccinations. Senator Hirono also introduced legislation that would address a wide spectrum of health equity concerns among racial and ethnic minorities, as well as women, the LGBTQ+ community, rural populations, and socioeconomically disadvantaged communities across the country.