Despite its higher-than-average usage in Oklahoma, insulin’s skyrocketing prices have restricted access for those in need. graphic by Conner Maggio

Okla. insulin cost due to lack of affordable healthcare

A 500 percent increase in the cost of insulin over the last 15 years should be counteracted with a state-wide expansion of Medicaid.

Diabetes is a constant medical problem across the United States, especially in Oklahoma, where the rate of diagnosis is higher than the national average by around two percent. It affects a large majority of Oklahoma citizens, and it continues to grow every year. Data by the Oklahoma State Department of Health states that 329,100 Oklahomans had some form of diabetes in 2012. This number continues to rise.

However, Oklahomans who have diabetes may face troubles paying for the necessary insulin required to treat the set of diseases classified as diabetes. Insulin prices have grown 500 percent over the past 15 years. According to the Bureau of Labor, inflation has only reached 37.04 percent in the similar period. Therefore, the massive price jump has to come from the source: medical companies. The best solution is an expansion to the Medicaid system, seen in other states across the U.S.

The major issue is the lack of healthcare that properly fits people’s complete needs. While some receive a form of healthcare, it does not currently provide them with enough insulin to fit their regular needs. In interviews with the Frontier, diabetics explain how they are forced to pay massive fees out of pocket to get the necessary resources that they need. One of the interviewees, Clayton Cook, stated that he has to pay an additional $20,000 dollars every year to have enough insulin for his daughter. While some Oklahomans have a source of insurance, it is not enough. Many are unable to work due to it being more financially viable to stay at home with their children. New work requirements for Medicaid, however, may hurt these individuals by requiring them to report at least 80 hours of work each month to qualify for Medicaid coverage.

The best solution to help fix these problems would be to expand Medicaid in Oklahoma, similar to other states. After the creation of the Affordable Care Act, the federal government encouraged states to expand access to Medicaid to people up to 138 percent over the poverty line. The federal government would pay the whole bill, and eventually the state would help pay 10 percent.

According to a joint study by the University of Chicago and the University of Southern California, “prescription fills for insulin increased by 40 percent, and newer medications increased by 39 percent in Medicaid expansion states, while trends in non-expansion states were essentially unchanged.” This expansion of Medicaid helped improve the lives of citizens across these states due to their ability to receive better treatment and easier access to medicine.

Additionally, the main author of the study, Dr. Rebecca Myerson, stated that “our data shows that uninsured patients used newer medications at less than half the rate of privately insured patients, but with Medicaid insurance, that gap completely disappeared.” Through the expansion of Medicaid, people who need essential medicine can be properly cared for. However, some fear that the Medicaid increase would be a terrible burden on Oklahoma. Oklahoma would face a $200 million bill for the program, and it would have cut in half the money used for teacher salaries. While the bill may be drastic, it is important to help those in need to receive the medicine they need to survive.

The increase in Medicaid in Oklahoma would help people receive the pharmaceuticals they desperately need without having to pay high out-of-pocket fees. People could rejoin the workforce and would be able to live a normal life. The skyrocketing price of insulin in the United States is a serious issue, and we should provide for Oklahomans who are unable to acquire the necessary amount of insulin.

Post Author: Nathan Hinkle