How about it, HealthPartners, UCare and Blue Cross Blue Shield? Medica has stepped up to help Minnesotans struggling to afford insulin. The state’s other big nonprofit insurers should follow suit.
Outrage continues to simmer across the state after lawmakers failed to pass an emergency insulin assistance bill at the Capitol this spring. A determined bipartisan group of legislators is trying to work out a deal that could trigger a fall special session.
While summer talks have yielded progress, funding remains a sticking point in reaching agreement on a measure to provide a short-term supply of insulin to those who need it but can’t afford it. The Star Tribune Editorial Board has repeatedly called for the state’s providers and insurers to also address insulin affordability.
Medica is the first to offer a new program. The Minnetonka-based plan announced Monday that it will cap many policyholders’ out-of-pocket costs for insulin at $25 a month beginning in January.
The move will help thousands of Minnesotans who get private insurance through Medica. Specifically, the cap will apply to individual Medica health plans bought through MNsure and to some employer coverage provided through the insurance company. Not all Medica policyholders will see cost relief, but this is a solid start.
The move reflects positively on Medica’s leadership. The state’s nonprofit insurers are accorded preferential tax treatment. With that comes the expectation of contributing to the health of the communities they serve. The insulin cap is a timely new approach to shoulder this responsibility — one that should spur the state’s other major nonprofit insurers to broaden current efforts.
This week, a UCare spokeswoman said the insurer is “very concerned” about the high cost of insulin and is evaluating ways to help members afford it. Blue Cross Blue Shield Minnesota offers a $0 copay insulin option for employer-based coverage. HealthPartners also offers some plans with $25 insulin price caps.
These efforts aren’t as expansive as Medica’s new program, which makes the $25 price cap more of a basic feature vs. the upgrade approach taken by Blue Cross and HealthPartners. Medica also says it is absorbing the costs of this change instead of passing along costs to consumers.
Lawmakers shouldn’t view Medica’s new program as an excuse for inaction. The insurer’s initiative will only help those with coverage. Even if other health plans enact similar measures, the uninsured would be left unaided.
That’s why state lawmakers still need to pass an emergency insulin assistance package. From what is publicly known about ongoing discussions, it would aim help to those without coverage.
Two young Minnesota men have died after insulin rationing. Medica has offered one solution. More are needed to ensure no other Minnesotan is priced out of this lifesaving medication.