United Healthcare says ‘no out-of-pocket’ expenses for insulin

Minnetonka-based United Healthcare announced it would pledge to have no “out-of-pocket” expenses for diabetes patients who cannot afford insulin medication starting January 1.

The company also said it would do the same for other critical drugs including epinephrine for severe allergic reactions, albuterol for acute asthma attacks, glucagon for hypoglycemia and naloxone for opioid overdoses.

In 2020, the Minnesota Legislature passed a bill into law known as the “Alec Smith Insulin Affordability Act” after Smith died while rationing his insulin supply because he could not afford prices that had skyrocketed in 2017.   Smith was 26 years old and died of diabetic ketoacidosis.

Rep. Michael Howard, (DFL) Richfield, sponsored the Alec Smith Insulin Affordability Act and told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS he was pleased to hear the steps United Healthcare is taking to reach people who need life-saving drugs at a reasonable cost.

“It’s an exciting, positive step forward,” said Howard.  “It’s the pursuit of what I think a lot of us would hope to see, which is making Minnesota, and our country, a place where if you have type-1 Diabetes, and you need insulin, you can get it an affordable price.”

Howard said he still would like to see healthcare companies and the state legislature do more to make sure lower drug prices for those in need become normalized.

“I still think it would be a good idea to put something like that into state law to offer that sort of permanency for folks to know that’s the law of the land,” said Howard.

Howard told KSTP there is evidence this type of legislation is working to help people facing tough choices when trying to budget for their prescription medications.

“A few months ago we received a report that last year over a thousand Minnesotans used Alec’s law to get affordable insulin at a time when they needed it most,” said Howard.

A trade group filed a lawsuit against the state claiming Alec’s law violated the Constitutional rights of pharmaceutical companies and a federal judge dismissed that claim.

However, that decision has been appealed and is still pending before the U.S. Court of Appeals.