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News / Health / Health Wire

Cap on insulin cost now permanent in Washington

By Daniel Beekman, The Seattle Times
Published: March 31, 2023, 8:05am

OLYMPIA — Washington has established a permanent, $35-per-month cap on the cost of insulin, a drug used to treat diabetes, cementing a temporary measure that was set to expire at the start of 2024.

Gov. Jay Inslee signed Senate Bill 5729 into law Thursday, following its adoption last month by the Senate and this month by the House.

Sponsored by Sen. Karen Keiser, D-Des Moines, SB 5729 will remove the expiration date on the temporary measure adopted by lawmakers last year. The new bill, which says health plans must limit out-of-pocket expenses for a 30-day supply of insulin to $35, has no expiration date.

The Senate vote was 47 to 0 and the House vote was 95 to 2.

Insulin costs have climbed in recent years and are higher in the U.S. than other industrialized nations. But a push by Democrats at the national level to limit the cost of the drug was opposed by most Republicans and failed last year, except for people on Medicare, prompting more states to take action on their own.

“Insulin is a lifesaving drug that was developed a century ago,” Keiser said in a news release Thursday.

“In Canada, you can get it for $5. But in our country, it can cost hundreds of dollars. That means people die because they can’t afford insulin.”

She added, “This legislation isn’t a perfect solution — I had hoped that Congress would take action to ensure insulin is affordable for all Americans. But by keeping costs down for people with diabetes, this price cap is going to save lives in Washington.”

Many people with diabetes require regular doses of insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas, to regulate their blood sugar levels.

Nationwide, more than 37 million people have diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association.

“Permanently capping insulin costs at $35 a month is one way we aren’t waiting for federal action to reign in healthcare costs for thousands of Washingtonians,” Inslee wrote on Twitter after signing the bill. “I’m proud of all the efforts that brought this bill to my desk today.”