- Associated Press - Monday, March 22, 2021

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear signed legislation Monday to make insulin more affordable, calling it a “game changer” for many people in a state with one of the nation’s highest diabetes rates.

The bill will limit the cost of insulin to $30 per 30-day supply for many Kentuckians. The cap applies to people with state-regulated health care plans or plans purchased on the marketplace exchange, state employees and people under group plans, the governor’s office said.

“This is the right thing to do and it’s a game changer for those who rely on insulin to live,” Beshear said at a signing ceremony attended by the bipartisan bill’s primary sponsors.

Insulin is used to keep people’s blood sugar at safe levels. Insulin varies by patient, as do costs depending on insurance coverage.

More than half-a-million Kentuckians have diabetes, including the bill’s lead GOP sponsor, and Kentucky ranks seventh nationally for diabetes prevalence. The Democratic governor, who refers to health care access as a “basic human right,” said some Kentuckians have had to pay more than $1,000 a month for insulin. That forced some people to ration the medication or go without it, he said.

“For too long, too many Kentuckians with diabetes have struggled to afford this life-preserving, and in many cases, lifesaving medication,” Beshear said. “These Kentuckians have been at risk of losing their life, or permanently damaging their health, simply because they can’t afford the medication that keeps them healthy or alive.”

No lawmaker voted against House Bill 95 as it moved through the GOP-dominated legislature, culminating a multiyear effort to limit insulin prices. Its lead sponsors - Republican Rep. Danny Bentley and Democratic Rep. Patti Minter - joined the governor at Monday’s bill-signing ceremony.

Both lawmakers said the measure will save lives.

“This is only a first step,” Minter said. “There is much more work to do, not just in terms of affordable insulin, but also in lowering the cost of prescription drugs across the board.”

Bentley is a diabetic, and Minter’s son Alex lives with Type 1 diabetes.

“As a Type 1 diabetic, I understand firsthand how scary it can be when you can’t afford your medication,” Bentley said. “We need to ensure those who need this lifesaving medication can always access it. This bill is meant to keep people healthy, keep people productive and decrease the cost of complications related to diabetes.”

The governor signed several other health-related bills Monday, including:

-HB50, which aims to increase access to treatment for mental health and substance abuse disorders. The measure seeks to remove barriers to providing coverage for such treatment.

-HB448, which aims to increase access to behavioral health services from qualified mental health professionals.

-Senate Bill 154, which seeks to expand providers who supervise home health services.

-HB276, which accelerates the path for personal care aides to become nurse aides, helping increase the state’s long-term care workforce.

-HB75, which seeks to encourage more Kentuckians to serve as living organ donors. The bill prevents insurance companies from discriminating against a live organ donor by raising their rate, canceling coverage or denying coverage.

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