Collier County foundation wants law to control rising price of insulin

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August 28, 2019
Proclamation from Board of County Commissioners Collier County Letter from Rick Desanits
October 29, 2019

More than 2 million people in Florida with diabetes need insulin to survive. And they are all seeing a rise in the price of something they depend on daily. Recent laws have passed in other states that puts a cap on the price of insulin, so we looked at why prices are allowed to increase in the Sunshine State.

We spoke to founders Joe and Tami Balvage of Help a Diabetic Child Foundation in Collier County Thursday, and they say a similar law is needed to control the rising prices of insulin in the state.

Colorado recently passed into law a cap on insulin costs, ensuring people with diabetes there won’t pay more than $100 a month for the drug. And the Balvages are pushing for something similar to happen in Florida. Their son was diagnosed with diabetes when he was 16 years old in 2010, and it eventually motivated them to form their foundation.

“Will he be able to handle it on his own,” Tami said of her son. “That financial burden of just keeping himself alive?”

Tami asks herself this question frequently, imagining the worst that could happen to their family, as they are forced to cover any and all costs to continuing providing insulin for their son no matter what.

“When our son was diagnosed, a vile of insulin was over $100,” Balvage said. “And today a vile is over $300 on average.”

“It’s a vicious cycle,” Joe said. “And, right now, it’s an incurable disease. It’s lifelong; it’s incessant; and it doesn’t give you a day off.”

The Balvage family are among the millions of people throughout the country who have to plan their lives, days and month in advance due to skyrocketing insulin prices.

“We know what it’s like when you have a child that’s first diagnosed,” Tami said. “And you get those bills, and we have insurance. And you see how much it costs to get your child out of the hospital.”

Joe and Tami hope Florida lawmakers can follow Colorado’s lead and cap out-of-pocket co-pays for diabetics at $100, the rest funded by insurance and/or government coverage.

Dr. David Wagner, an associate professor at the University of Colorado, was instrumental in Colorado, pushing for legislation to be passed. He works alongside Tami and Joe at their foundation in Collier County.

“It’s incredibly frustrating that it’s taken this long,” Wagner said. “And I’m proud of my state that we’ve done this.”

Wagner is a strong believer in the law that passed in Colorado and believes in how it will affect those who pay the year-round costs of insulin.

“One hundred dollars is still a lot of money for a lot of people,” Wagner said. “But hundreds of dollars verses thousands of dollars, that’s a really big difference.”

And the Balvages hope Florida lawmakers hear their pleas to help all diabetics in the state toward a more flexible insulin cost and lifestyle.

“It’s just amazing — even the glucagon emergency pen, the increase in that,” Tami said. “And a lot of families are struggling just to get that. It’s over $300, so it’s a very costly disease.”