by ANDREA LANNOM & JULIET THOMAS
This week, the House passed House Bill 4353, which caps the cost of a 30-day supply of insulin with insurance to $25.
The bill aims to make insulin more affordable for West Virginians, since it's a lifesaving medication, and has been largely supported by Republicans and Democrats alike.
There are two different types of diabetes-type 1 and type 2. Type 1 diabetes is usually diagnosed early in life, but it can develop at any age. It's normally caused an autoimmune reaction. Type 2 diabetes is slightly different. It develops as a reaction to high blood sugar which can be caused by obesity, inactivity, and copious sugar consumption. With both types of diabetes, your pancreas doesn't create enough of the insulin hormone to use the sugar in the body for energy. This is where the drug insulin comes in. It's used to regulate the blood sugar of diabetics and requires daily doses.
West Virginia has the highest rates of Type 2 Diabetes in the country. More than 240,000 West Virginians have diabetes, and it is estimated that over 65,000 people have the disease undiagnosed. With insurance, the cost of insulin can be up to $600 per month for a 30-day supply. It's estimated that one in four people are forced to ration their insulin because of the skyrocketing costs. Rationing doses causes organ failure and even death. Many people cannot afford this medicine that they need to live.
West Virginia also has ranked among the top in the nation for diabetes-related deaths. According to 2017 data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, diabetes was the sixth leading cause of death in West Virginia. However, the state ranked top in the nation for that particular year for diabetes-related deaths, according to the CDC.
In 2018, according to the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, one in 10 West Virginians had diabetes-ranking West Virginia second highest in the nation. The DHHR broke the figure down further, stating that prevalence was highest among people who are 65 and older, and rates were the highest in Grant, Logan, McDowell, and Wayne counties than the rest of the state. West Virginia also has an aging population, with almost 20% of its population 65 and older, according to population estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau.
Delegate Barbara Evans Fleischauer, D-Monongalia, said the idea for the bill started last year when a constituent thanked her for sponsoring "Kevin's Law."
"Kevin was a young man in Ohio. His prescription for insulin ran out on New Year's Eve," Fleischauer said. "He could not reach his doctor and he died January 6."
Fleischauer said she started hearing more stories about people who started rationing their insulin when they aged out of their parents' health insurance policy.
"One of my constituents said one thing we needed to do was address copays, which are outrageous," Fleischauer said. "It's nuts that these people who had insurance were paying $500 to $700 a month in copays and that's not the only thing they were paying. They also have to pay for premiums, for test strips, for pumps, some people have different types of machines, and some insurance policies will pay for some things but not others. My constituent told me she spent $200,000 in 20 years and that was with good insurance. This is a problem a lot of people in West Virginia have."
Fleischauer planned a trip to Canada for people to purchase insulin at a much cheaper rate. Some people reported saving more than $100, Fleischauer said. One person told Fleischauer that he developed Type 1 diabetes in his 40s. His first copay was $41 but it has increased to $647.
"These people are victims because they did not choose to be diabetic," Fleischauer said. "People can't ration or stop using insulin or they will go into a coma or die. However, with how expensive it is, this has been a dilemma some people are in."
Although the bill caps the cost of insulin at $25, it does not prohibit insurance companies from lowering the prices. The price cap covers about 50,000 PEIA retirees, about 163,000 active PEIA individuals, along with 197,000 people covered by private insurers. However, the bill does not apply to people who are covered by Medicare and Medicaid. The bill provides that insurance companies must comply with the provisions under this bill for their policies or plans by July 1, 2020.
The bill covers seven types of insulin and has a mandated appeals process.
"We had to make clear that if a person needs two types of insulin or if they are allergic to one of them that insurance says is preferred, that there is that appeals process," Fleischauer said.
This bill originated in the House Health and Human Resources Committee. Delegate Jordan Hill, R-Nicholas, is the lead sponsor of this bill and the chair of Health and Human Resources.
When this bill was examined in committee, Hill was pleasantly surprised by the overwhelming support that it got. He said that during the voice vote to advance the bill to the next committee there was a unanimous "yes" vote.
"A lot of times in the legislature, as two political parties, we butt heads on a variety of issues. It can be a negative experience sometimes," Hill said. "But it feels very good to deal with legislation like this, with lots of bipartisan support, that can possibly save lives and help a lot of people."
When creating this legislation, Hill looked towards the handful of other states that have passed similar legislation already. Both Colorado and Illinois have set their price cap at $100, and Virginia has just passed legislation that would cap costs at $30.
Hill decided to set the cap at $25 originally, which he said would leave room for negotiation to a higher price during the committee process. The bill ended up passing through two other committees and the full House without changes to the dollar amount.
When House Bill 4353 gets signed into law, West Virginia will have the lowest copay for insulin in the country.
Fleischauer said she was grateful for the bipartisan support of the bill.
"(Delegate Jordan Hill), He was with me from the beginning," Fleischauer said. "I talked to him about this after my constituent raised the issue and he was supportive from the beginning. He was also supportive of keeping the cap at $25, which is lower than other similar bills proposed in other states.
"This will improve people's security," Fleischauer added. "It's terrifying to worry about money and getting sick. I think this can help."
House Bill 4353 awaits action in the Senate.
SB 310 updates the terminology of certain terms used in the WV Personal Income Tax Act.
SB 544 allows pharmacists and pharmacy interns to distribute immunizations. The Senate concurred with the House's amendments, completing legislation for this bill.
SB 560 allows certain medical professionals to administer medication in nursing homes under the supervision of a registered nurse. The House proposed a technical amendment, which was amended and passed by the Senate.
SB 620 authorizes the Commissioner of the Division of corrections and Rehabilitation to approve home plans for inmates and to establish requirements for the program.
HB 2497 clarifies the protections given to an individual under the Whistle-Blower Law. The bill provides that an employer cannot retaliate or discriminate against an employee who reports illegal activity or corruption within the workplace.
HB 4007 requires a physician to perform life-saving measures on a child born alive during an abortion.
HB 4166 prohibits sex offenders convicted of sexually violent offenses from having a supervisory position over children. This also applies to a person required to be on supervised release between the sentencing term of 10 years to life.
HB 4179 enacts the Recognition of Emergency Services Personnel Licensure Compact.
HB 4353 creates a rational nexus requirement between previous criminal conduct and decision making for initial licensure. The bill's purpose is to remove obstacles for employment for persons with criminal records seeking licenses and certifications for certain careers governed by state laws.
HB 4381 extends the time for adopted children to get a lifetime hunting, fishing and trapping license.
HB 4470 clarifies that adults who commit a criminal offense while in juvenile custody ca not be held within the sight or sound of other inmates.
HB 4476 provides that the efficient collection, submission, testing and disposition of evidence in sexual assault cases be done in a timely manner. The bill requires sexual assault forensic examination kits to be directly submitted to the State Police Forensic Laboratory.
HB 4515 deals with wildlife resources and eligibility for license or permit application, requiring an eligibility statement for permit applications. The bill also clarifies false statements on permit applications as unlawful.
HB 4601 allows members of a police or fire municipal pension plans participating in a DROP to be considered active members in order to determine the distribution of premium tax proceeds.
As of Friday, February 21, 2020, 842 bills have been introduced to the Senate. Of those bills, 153 have passed and advanced to the House.
SB 130 revises procedures for suspensions and revocations of driver's licenses for driving under the influence. The bill provides that those who have had their driver's licenses revoked upon conviction of this offense are to complete a comprehensive safety and treatment program before the license can be reinstated.
SB 253 provides for the fair pay and employment of disabled persons, creates a state â€œEmployment First" policy to encourage agencies to employ disabled persons, and establish a task force to initiate these policies. The bill provides for the DHHR Bureau of Behavioral Health, Bureau of Medical Services, Division of Rehabilitation Services, and Workforce WV to put the policy into practice.
SB 265 establishes a program to reclaim abandoned and dilapidated buildings in the state to improve our communities and open new parcels for development. This program, designated the Reclamation of Abandoned and Dilapidated Properties Program will provide WV counties with a new tool to invite investment in our communities.
SB 279 requires dental insurance plans to honor an assignment of payments due under the policy to individuals who sign the agreement.
SB 291 requires PEIA and other health insurance providers to provide mental health parity. This would be divided between mental health, behavioral health, substance abuse disorders and medical procedures.
SB 484 requires that free feminine hygiene products be given to female prisoners, as well as female juveniles in juvenile detention centers.
SB 490 addresses criminal offenses against agricultural facilities. The purpose of the bill is to protect these facilities by establishing that damaging, destroying, or depriving the operator of a facility of their property is a criminal offense. The bill males a person who commits such an offense liable for twice the amount of the damages they cause.
SB 502 increases the penalty for methamphetamine trafficking. The bill defines the different terms and degrees of this felony and provides a description of how the penalty should be implemented.
SB 562 clarifies expungement of certain criminal convictions. The bill also eliminates the requirement that the chief law enforcement officer or head of a law-enforcement agency is sought where such an agency was not the arresting agency. The bill also clarifies that the Commissioner of Corrections is served with a copy of the petition for expungement if the petitioner was confined for a crime they seek to have expunged.
SB 610 removes the resident manager requirement for the Alcohol Beverage Control Commission. The bill also removes the residency requirement for granting permits under the Medical Cannabis Act. The WV Lottery is also to remove residency and United States citizenship requirements from its statutes.
SB 649 permits the director of a county or municipality emergency phone system to create contracts for emergency mobile phones if landlines are unavailable.
SB 660 regulates electronic bicycles by providing for their exclusion from registration, title, insurance and driver's license requirements. The bill prohibits the influence of alcohol and drugs on these bicycles and requires the wearing of a helmet.
SB 692 clarifies that persons indicted or charged jointly for a felony is entitled to a separate trial to address the guilt or innocence of the offense or offenses.
SB 702 allows a school district to develop programs including but not limited to an optional physical fitness program to teach nutrition and physical fitness. The bill also creates a fund from which money can be awarded on a competitive basis to qualifying school districts.
SB 725 is a supplemental appropriation bill amends and increases items of appropriations to the Department of Education for the 2020 fiscal year.
SB 746 provides contracted managed care companies with the uniform maternal screening tool for their own covered lives. The data collected by the tool will remain confidential with these contracted managed care companies.
SB 747 requires the Bureau of Public Health to develop a Diabetes Action Plan. This plan would include convening a task force, conducting data, drafting a plan for prevention, disease management and treatment and tracking relevant statistics regarding diabetes.
SB 778 creates a supplemental appropriation of expired funds from the State Excess Lottery Revenue Fund to various accounts in the Department of Health and Human Resources.
SB 779 transfers funds from the State Excess Lottery Revenue Fund to the Department of Veterans Assistance.
As of Friday, February 21, 2020, there have been 1,513 bills introduced in the House and 160 bills have been passed and now are before the Senate.
Senate Bill 560 permits nursing homes to use trained individuals to administer medication.
Senate Bill 620 authorizes the Division of Corrections to approve home plans for inmates.
Senate Bill 209 updates code that deals with annexation through minor boundary adjustment.
Senate Bill 339 authorizes the Department of Health and Human resources to promulgate legislative rules. This includes rules relating to the state medical cannabis program.
Senate Bill 573 supplements, amends and increases appropriations of public moneys for claims against state.
Senate Bill 623 allows a noncitizen of the United States eligible for a certificate to teach if he or she holds a valid Employment Authorization Document or work permit, issued by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.
House Bill 4001 creates the West Virginia Impact Fund, its Investment Committee and the Mountaineer Impact Office to further economic development, infrastructure development and job creation in the State of West Virginia through investment of the assets of the fund.
House Bill 2775 requires high school students to take a one credit financial literacy course in order to graduate. This bill does not take away from any previous graduation requirements set forth by the Board of Education.
House Bill 4165 establishes the West Virginia Remembers Program. The bill authorizes the State Board of Education to maintain lists by county boards of veteran volunteers to speak in the public schools.
House Bill 4519 establishes a summer youth intern pilot program within Department of Commerce. The goal of this bill is to give students the opportunity to gain workplace experience while exploring interests for future careers.
House Bill 4621 creates the West Virginia FinTech Regulatory Sandbox, which enables a participant to obtain limited access to West Virginia's financial services market to test innovative financial products or services prior to obtaining full state licensure or other authorization that otherwise may be required.
House Bill 4633 expands county commissions' ability to dispose of county or district property to a nonprofit community or senior center organization without conducting a public sale.
House Bill 4729 requires higher education institutions to use previous versions or editions of instructional materials unless the board of governors approves need for most recent version or edition.
House Bill 2028 prohibits the state from requiring a public service district to have a state engineer on site during the entire construction period of projects on state rights-of-way
House Bill 4450 extends the expiration time for instruction permits issued by the Division of Motor Vehicles to persons who have reached the age of 18 years from 90 days to six months.
House Bill 4504 changes the application requirement for individuals with a permanent disability who must renew expired special registration plates and removable windshield placards.
House Bill 4543 aims to reduce the skyrocketing costs of insulin by capping the cost of a 30-day supply of insulin at $25 with insurance.
House Bill 4773 establish a workgroup study to develop statewide standards for adverse childhood trauma assessment protocols.
House Bill 4734 changes several parts of code that relate to registered professional nurses. Among many other changes, it renames The West Virginia Board of Examiners for Registered Professional Nurses to the West Virginia Board of Registered Nurses.
House Bill 4015 seeks to address economic development by permitting the existing insurance fund to insure additional broadband internet service. The bill also enacts the Vertical Real Estate Management and Availability Act, which defines the term and establishes how vertical real estate is to be managed.
House Bill 4422 prohibits anyone from attempting to derive a profit or personal gain from referring patients to a healthcare provider or facility. The bill establishes criminal penalties for any individual or business that engages in unlawful patient brokering.
House Bill 3098 allows the same business owner to brew and sell beer to also distill and sell liquor.
House Bill 2321 provides worker's compensation for first responders diagnosed with PTSD. The PTSD must be the result of an event that occurred during their employment.
House Bill 4523 removes the limitation of number of apprentice hunting and trapping licenses a person may purchase.
House Bill 4557 includes the ability to impose civil penalties for good cause upon a facility providing care and treatment to mentally ill or intellectually disabled individuals and group residential homes treating behaviorally disabled individuals.