Cigna launches program to cut insulin cost for plan members

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Cigna has launched a program intended to cap out-of-pocket expenses for diabetes patients who are reliant on insulin.

Under the Patient Assurance Program, announced Wednesday by Cigna in partnership with Express Scripts, eligible people with diabetes in participating plans will pay no more than $25 for a 30-day supply of insulin.

The program will be available to members in participating non-government funded pharmacy plans managed by Express Scripts, including Cigna and other health plans, with out-of-pocket costs for insulin greater than $25 out of pocket costs for insulin include deductibles, copays or coinsurance.

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.

Cigna and Express Scripts clients will activate this new program for participating plans by moving covered insulin products to a lower copayment. Last year, patients paid an average of $41.50 a month out of pocket, including deductibles, copays or coinsurance, for the lifesaving diabetes drug, the company said.

Cigna said individuals eligible for the new program could save approximately 40 percent.

The move follows the US Food and Drug Administration’s announcement Tuesday that it intends to bring competition to the insulin market as a way to lower prices.

Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb said the FDA would change how insulin is regulated in order to enable products that are biosimilar to (or interchangeable with) insulin to come to market.

People with diabetes are prescribed insulin because their bodies either do not produce it (as with Type 1 diabetes) or do not use it properly (as with Type 2 diabetes). There are more than 20 types of insulin sold in the United States, according to the American Diabetes Association.

The annual cost of diabetes, gestational diabetes, and prediabetes in the United States skyrocketed to $322 billion in 2012, a 48 percent increase in just five years, according to the ADA.

About 31 percent of American adults with diabetes reported taking insulin in 2011, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, while the diabetes association reported that 23.1 million Americans had been diagnosed with diabetes in 2015.

The Health Care Cost Institute, an independent research group funded by four health insurance companies, found that individuals with Type 1 diabetes spent, on average, $5,705 per person on insulin in 2016, an increase of $2,841 since 2012.

More than a quarter of the approximately 24 million Americans who are diagnosed with diabetes use insulin – alone or along with other medications – to keep their blood glucose levels in check, according to research from Express Scripts.

A recent Yale study highlighted the effects of this issue, showing that 1 in 4 people with diabetes who use insulin admitted to cutting back on the use of insulin because of cost.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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