Opinion: I’m a diabetic and a retired nurse. One of Biden’s policies changed my life

By Steven Lubin

May 24, 2024

In this op-ed, Pennsylvania resident Steve Lubin, a retired ICU nurse, explains the critical need for affordable diabetes medication and praises the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) for capping insulin costs and reducing financial burdens for Medicare beneficiaries and non-seniors alike.

With 20 years working in healthcare, my ICU memories stand out the most. As an ICU nurse, I’ve not only witnessed the dire effects of diabetes in patients, but I have also lived it myself. An estimated 37 million Americans, about 11.3% of the US population, have diabetes.

A frequent circumstance I witnessed in the hospital was treating diabetic patients who struggled with complications due to rationing their insulin. Limited access to medication significantly impacts health, especially in diabetes management. Many patients, facing financial constraints, can’t afford insulin, are forced to ration their supply, and often end up hospitalized with worsening health conditions, including kidney disease, cardiac and vascular issues, vision loss, and even death.

Amongst Americans, this financial barrier persists; research shows that 1 in 6 people with diabetes ration their insulin. Therefore, throughout my career and into retirement, I’ve dedicated my life to supporting patients like myself and urging our elected officials to advocate for more fair and lower prescription drug costs.

In August of 2022, the Biden administration passed monumental legislation, the Inflation Reduction Act. While many Americans know this as a historic climate bill, it is critical to know that this law also tackles healthcare inequalities by directly taking on Big Pharma. Through the Inflation Reduction Act, monthly insulin costs for Medicare beneficiaries are now capped at $35, saving seniors like me thousands of dollars a year. Consequently, the pressure the Biden-Harris Administration put on big pharmaceutical companies through this legislation resulted in the top three manufacturers of insulin also reducing their prices for non-seniors.

As a diabetic and retired nurse with two children, one of whom struggles with drug affordability due to a spine condition called Spina Bifida, I understand the critical importance of accessible healthcare. This issue is not isolated; it’s a widespread challenge affecting countless individuals across the nation.

In my case, before the Inflation Reduction Act, I grappled with excessive copays for insulin, facing fluctuating expenses exacerbated by the infamous Medicare “donut hole.” This coverage gap puts a temporary limit on what your insurance plan will cover for prescription drugs. For me, it placed an immense strain on my finances and jeopardized my health, adding up to approximately $1,500 out of pocket for insulin annually.

The Inflation Reduction Act, however, ushered in a new era of relief, instituting a co-pay cap and effectively eliminating the fluctuations caused by the donut hole. Because of the $35 copay cap, my expenses have significantly decreased. Now, I can access vital medications without sacrificing other essentials, compromising my well-being, or going bankrupt.

The impact of reduced drug costs extends far beyond mere financial relief. It’s about reclaiming autonomy over one’s health and quality of life and no longer allowing healthcare costs to control our lives. With lowered expenses, I can now redirect the savings towards meaningful experiences, whether it’s enjoying meals with friends or attending to the needs of my grandchildren. These seemingly small joys are invaluable, representing the tangible benefits of healthcare policies that prioritize affordability and accessibility.

We must continue to advocate for comprehensive reforms that ensure equitable access to healthcare for all. The current provisions are a step in the right direction but must be expanded to include a broader spectrum of people, irrespective of their insurance status, race, or socio-economic status. Healthcare is not a privilege reserved for only a few; it’s a fundamental right that should be accessible to every human, and our government must take action to ensure this.

Related: How Pennsylvania women are saving money on health care thanks to the Inflation Reduction Act




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