For the 30 million Americans with diabetes who rely on insulin, rapidly rising out-of-pocket prescription costs threaten their ability to afford this lifesaving medicine.

This is why I recently introduced legislation to cap the price of insulin at $100 per 30-day supply, along with my colleagues Reps. Jimmy Anderson and Katrina Shankland and Sen. Dave Hansen.

The inventor of insulin, Frederick Banting, sold the patent for $1 in the 1920s because he wanted everyone who needed the drug to be able to afford it. However, the patent was sold again to two of the biggest pharmaceutical companies, and the price of insulin has continued to surge. Due to a lax regulatory environment around drug pricing, the costs of insulin have tripled during the past decade.

Jill Billings


The price of medication is determined in negotiations between drug manufacturers and insurance companies. In countries where the manufacturer negotiates the price with the government, like in Canada, the cost of a vial of insulin (a week of supply) is $30. In the United States, a vial costs about $340 at retail pricing. Because those with diabetes often require several vials per month to manage their condition, these artificially elevated prices can have a substantial impact.

You have free articles remaining.

Become a Member

Register for more free articles.
Stay logged in to skip the surveys.

Unlike many other medications, there is no true generic version of insulin available, which would otherwise provide a low-cost alternative. Pharmaceutical companies have made incremental improvements to insulin throughout the years, allowing them to keep their formulations under patent. As a result, these companies are able to set prices at their whim. Recently, the manufacturers of EpiPens and opioid antidotes have been criticized for similar soaring prices.

The consequences of this pharmaceutical price gouging can be catastrophic. A quarter of people with diabetes report that they ration or skip lifesaving doses of insulin, with potentially damaging or fatal consequences. Skipping insulin or not taking the right amount can lead to kidney failure, blindness or even death.

In other cases, diabetics are getting behind on rent or being forced to choose between paying for insulin and groceries. It is unacceptable for anyone to be put in that position while pharmaceutical companies benefit at their expense.

In Wisconsin, 8% of adults have diabetes, and 28% of adults have undiagnosed diabetes. The direct and indirect costs of diabetes in Wisconsin, including medical care and lost productivity, total an estimated $3.9 billion annually. In La Crosse County alone, about 500 adults are newly diagnosed with diabetes each year.

I hope that this out-of-pocket cap will provide financial relief for diabetes patients across Wisconsin. I’m proud to co-author this bill to ensure that no Wisconsinite will have to skip or ration the insulin they need to stay alive.

Be the first to know - Sign up for Breaking News

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Democrat Jill Billings, La Crosse, represents the 94th state Assembly District.


(14) comments


oldhomey, you haven't learned much in your years if you truly are 'old'. When has the government, local or otherwise ever done anything better and cheaper than a private company? Really. Are you one of those liberals who dresses up in a black ski mask to go out and fight facism? Thats what Jill Billings is wanting to do by allowing this company to be privately owned but regulated by government, Government could tell you what to make and what to charge for it. Next it'll be who they can sell their products to and who they can't. That is a textbook example of an important ingredient of facism. Italy, then Nazi Germany did this on their way to absolute power which I am not willing to give to the common council let alone the state or feds. Better to deregulate the patent laws (created by lawyers and the govt) to encourage competition among manufacturers. Comsumers win with competition. And don't be so anxious to drink the liberal kool aid.


Here is something I wish I had written, Janey: When a government bureaucrat fails us, the response is often along the lines of: “Typical government.” But when a private sector bureaucrat fails us, almost nobody says: “Typical private sector.”

Now, since you have strongly opined here in no uncertain terms, perhaps you can tell us how you regard the orders given by a president of the United States to all U.S. corporations doing business in China to get out of China, a president who feels so certain that he has the right and power to make this order stick that he doubles down on it every time the subject comes up. You must have some thoughts on this JaneyBird. I did not mean that as a "cheep" shot, I am genuinely interested in how you are going to square that with your opinion here.


oldhomey, I am not aware of the private sector having bureaucrats as they are defined, and big shots in the private sector are fired when they don't produce. Not given a staff and have a job for tens of years on our taxes


You and I must live in different worlds, Janey. While the concept of bureaucracy fits well with governmental organization, it is equally legitimate and found in most any large organization, including businesses, as "an administrative policy-making group".

Have you ever dealt with a large private insurance company? What do you encounter when you have a beef with a major airline? What happens when the church congregation you belong to needs to replace a minister or a priest? Big shots in the private sector who deliver higher profit margin margins to shareholders pretty much have to shoot somebody in the middle of Fifth Avenue in New York before the board thinks about firing them. Why do you think all those corporate moguls gathered last week to issue a message of intent to be more attentive to their customers, their employees and the communities in which they exist? The turnover of management in government happens every time there is a change in administrations. In Trump's case, it happens every two or three months, either because his appointees get exposed in scandals or they quit in disgust or they are thrown under the bus by their boss. Great management from the top, huh?


If the USA didn't regulate products from other countries as they all do, we would be stuck with goods that are evn worse than what they send us now . I am talking about regulating companies IN the USA as to matters that govt has no business in. facism at its best


So any goods coming from outside of the country are highly suspect of being shoddy, so we need to have strict government oversight on imports? But any domestically produced goods or drugs are above suspicion and should be given carte blanche treatment? I guess that means their are no craven opportunists in the U.S. willing to make a bundle on badly produced products. That sort of human failing can only be found outside our borders? Explain, please.


there, not their


P.S., Janey, yest, I am truly "old", but just to clarify that for you, age to my mind does not confer upon the person who is advanced in years any special intelligence, knowledge or wisdom. I am walking proof of that. And since you bring it up, almost all drugs, to my knowledge, are dependent on government funding for their development, and an awful lot of new drugs were not invented by pharmaceutical companies, but in government and university labs using research grants from the government. The drug companies simply take the idea and do the expensive testing to get FDA approval, certainly not a negligible service to humanity. But most drugs you and I rely on would not have come to be without taxpayer support, so eventually, yes, the government has every right to act in the interest of the taxpayers and, once a patent has run its course, allow the free market to determine the cost of the drug, blocking the pharmaceutical industry from gouging people in desperate need of the medication. That is what Jill Billings is wanting to do. Let capitalism and free markets actually work. Any thoughts?


the reference to your age was that you don't seem towant to learn from history. Those who deny it li ke you, will be doomed to repeat it. My closest friend works for a major pharmaceutical company and your 'knowledge' is farthest from the truth. It is the govt who causes the prices to be so high especially at first while under patent. One example of this is that the fed govt has laws that say if a drug company makes a drug here they wish to test, it must be here that they test it. He worked on an aids drug and they wanted to test it in Amsterdam where AIDS was/is very high. Because of this, they were forced to make it in europe with european materials. Very expensive coupled with the regs in this country that make a critical reporse to a plague like aids crawl like a snail. There are also others(laws) that make the costs high. I was explaining this to Ron Kind when he looked at attacking the drug companies some years ago. He just sat there with his mouth open and has done zip about it. This govt, local state or fed needs to solve problems instead of putting band aids on it. As I said before, the real answer is to really open it to free markets and capitalism as you misunderstand it.


Gosh, that danged Ron Kind! How could he ignore such compelling evidence that you laid out before him and before the rest of us, based on your "knowledge" pased on to you from your closest friend in the pharmaceutical industry. Did your friend tell you why the 1.1 million people in the U.S. who have AIDS were not numerous enough to comprise the study group to test their drug, but the 28,000 AIDS people in Netherlands were the group they needed to study? Did your friend tell you why it was so expensive for your friend's pharmaceutical company to make the test drug in Amsterdam. Were the components of the drug far, far more expensive there than in the U.S.? Did they have to send their entire team to Amsterdam to make the drug and administer the tests? There are no competent chemists there to do the technical work, and no trained researchers there to oversee and study the study? And why, for gosh sakes, if it is so expensive to do this work in Europe, didn't they do the testing process in the U.S. from the outset? I am sure you have answers for all of this. If you supply them here, I will see to it that they get to Ron Kind's office, and maybe then that stumblebum of a representative will finally close his dumbfounded mouth and get back to Washington and call hearings and get on the case and by gosh do something about this travesty of hand-cuffing well-meaning pharmaceutical companies that, for Pete's Sake, only trying to make an honest living while serving humankind with cheap, life-sustaining medications.


Excuse me, Janey, but I am one of those old codgers who doesn't seem to learn from history so is prone to repeating it. That is why I would like to repeat the questions I posed to you in my 2:28pm post that you seem not to have noticed, or otherwise you would, I am absolutely sure of it, would have answered post haste and cleared these issues up in my ancient, confused brain. Answers please.


Despite what Ronald Reagan said, and despite what conservatives try to maintain, there are some things that the government can and should do more cheaply and equitably to serve the public than can the marketplace, from police and fire protection to regulation of transport to delivery of public health measures like sewage removal and safe water. In the case of life-saving drugs, the pharmaceutical companies that develop them should have a period of patent protection that allows them to recover development costs and generate generous profits to reward shareholders and employees, and to finance further research. But there has to be a limit, and then generic drug makers can enter the market with their own versions, allowing the marketplace to determine the price. Why this has not happened with insulin leaves me dumbfounded. It is now 100 years since the development of insulin, and the legal life of a patent is supposed to be 17 years. That its maker in this country can keep extending the patent is evil and borders on out-right criminal. The government should and has to step in.


oldhomey, I don't agree with a lot of what you post on the trib blog site, but you are spot on with your comment on this subject. Well thought out and written. Kudos to you for this statement. And no, I'm not diabetic, although my doc keeps telling me I'm pre diabetic. From what I hear, apparently half the country is pre diabetic. I asked if they lowered the bar again and he sheepishly said"yes". Such is life.


agree, homey put Janey in her place with clarity and truth. That old adage that private sector can always do things cheaper than government has been proven to be false many many times. That belief of private sector doesn't have people who are inept and corrupt is totally false. When private sector big shots are finally given the heave ho, they also get a golden parachute worth millions and millions. Never to have to work again, even though they drove their company into the ground. People are people no matter where they work, some do their job efficiently, others are just dead weight. That is true in government and in private industry, doesn't matter.

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.