FEEDBACK | Reining in runaway health care costs
Author: Colorado Politics - April 19, 2018 - Updated: April 19, 2018
Let’s shed light on soaring prescription drug prices
I’ve taken insulin ever since I was diagnosed with childhood diabetes 52 years ago. Diabetes made me worry about lots of related things but I didn’t use to worry about the price of my insulin. But now that’s all I worry about.
My prescriptions are important. Everyday, the drugs save my life. Without them, I’ll die. But everyday, the skyrocketing prices of my prescriptions hurt my family.
HB18-1260, “Prescription Drug Price Transparency,” a bill in the state legislature, is an important opportunity for lawmakers and the public to have better information about why the costs of drugs are increasing and putting a strain on families like mine that are just trying to make ends meet. It’s not too much to ask that drug corporations provide clear justification when they want to increase the cost of a drug and provide advance notice of those price increases.
For decades, my medication was affordable. A few years ago, prices started going up and up — not by a little but by a lot. I’m talking about increases of hundreds of dollars a month in a few short years. I tried to use the free samples from my doctor, but I couldn’t do that for long.
My family started to suffer. We had to make difficult choices. First we had to cut back on expenses. Then we were forced to file for bankruptcy in order to buy my insulin so we could afford to keep me alive. Then it got so bad that we couldn’t afford where we were living, so we moved. That meant my husband had to leave his job. It was a hardship for my family, and that torments me.
We now spend $600-700 a month on my medications, and that doesn’t even include my high blood pressure medication, my glucose testing strips or the pump supplies ,which are about $250 each month. And then there are doctor visits!
Having to choose between medicine or my bills — that’s just morally wrong.
Perhaps what is most disturbing though to me is that I have no idea why the costs keep going up so much! Drug corporations have never justified why costs keep increasing for drugs that have existed for decades and were developed with taxpayer-funded research. And I never know when the costs for my medicines could go up even more or by how much.
I wish I could know why and when and how much.
I hope that legislators will pay attention to people like me and hold drug corporations accountable to give their customers more information.
Put a stop to ‘balance’ billing for treatment
Last year, a member of my family was seriously injured and spent nine days in a hospital that specifically was in-network under his health insurance. Without disclosure though, he was treated by six out-of-network physicians who subsequently billed him for all costs over what the insurance company paid. Surprise! A “balance” bill of $3,000 on top of his deductible.
Basically, we were subjected to an old fashioned bait and switch: admitted to an in-network facility but then given out-of-network services.
One doctor sent the bill to the wrong address, it wasn’t paid, and he sent the bill to a collection agency. The doctor’s billing company told us that if the insurance company did not pay the bill they would expect my family member to pay the “balance” even though State law says that the balance is the responsibility of the insurance company.
Does this sound frustrating and confusing? Very much so. Fortunately I had the time to research the issue, read Colorado law and talk to a state legislator. In the end the insurance company paid.
Eventually, this balance billing practice needs to be prohibited. In the meantime, state Sen. Bob Gardner (R-Colorado Springs) and state Rep. Daneya Esgar (D-Pueblo) have introduced Senate Bill 237, legislation to require new rules for correspondence and billing after a medical procedure to clarify that an out-of-network provider was part of the treatment and that consumers may have certain rights against balance bills.
This will give us much better disclosure than we have now, and I urge the legislature to pass Senate Bill 237.
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