Health insurer Cigna Corp. (NYSE: CI) and its pharmacy benefits subsidiary Express Scripts will be lowering the out-of-pocket cost of insulin for some of their members with diabetes. The Patient Assurance Program caps copays for insulin at $25 for a 30-day supply of the drug. The program could lower costs for the roughly 700,000 people who filed a claim for insulin last year through Cigna and Express Scripts plans. Cigna acquired Express Scripts, currently the largest U.S. pharmacy benefit management company, in December.
The new program is being offered as part of nongovernment Cigna plans for employers, unions, and individuals for 2020. It will also be available to members of other participating non-government-funded pharmacy plans managed by Express Scripts. The program is not available for Cigna-administered Medicare and Medicaid government plans.
Cigna said in a statement, “In most cases, people who use insulin will see lower out-of-pocket costs without any increased cost to the plan.” According to the company, the average cost for a 30-day supply of insulin was $41.50 last year, making the average monthly savings for those whose employers opted into the plan about $16 a month. There are more than 20 types of insulin currently sold in the United States.
According to the American Diabetes Association, 23.1 million Americans were diagnosed with diabetes in 2015. More than 25 percent of them use insulin to keep their blood glucose at a healthy level. Some people are prescribed insulin because their bodies do not produce it, while others have problems processing insulin properly. In both cases, missing a dose of insulin can be dangerous for their health.
Rising insulin prices have been a priority in the debate over how to lower high drug costs. A report from the Health Care Cost Institute found the annual cost of insulin for someone with Type 1 diabetes had risen from $2,841 per person, on average, in 2012 to $5,705 per person in 2016. U.S. Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb recently announced that the FDA will be changing how insulin is regulated in order to bring more competition to the insulin market.