AUSTIN (Nexstar) — In the throes of the 2018 campaign for Texas House, James Talarico was in the middle of his ambitious 25-mile walk through the district he hoped to represent.
He started to feel nauseous about half-way through the walk and vomited. Figuring he was dehydrated in the Texas heat, he drank some water and changed his shirt. He threw up four more times over the last twelve miles, he explained.
Talarico completed the walk and three town halls along the way. Then he slept— for 36 hours. His parents took the 28-year-old to the hospital, where he learned his glucose level was 900 instead of the normal level below 100.
“My pancreas abruptly stopped working one day,” he noted. He said he was in diabetic ketoacidoses, a life-threatening condition that can result in coma and death unless insulin is administered.
Talarico was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. He recovered in the emergency room after five days. He won the election.
“Now I have a constant glucose monitor on my arm and I take shots of insulin every day,” Talarico, D-Round Rock explained. His initial 30-day supply of insulin cost $684 with health insurance, he said.
It’s this medical nightmare that led to House Bill 40, which Talarico authored, to cap out-of-pocket insulin prices at $50 per month.
Rep. Talarico was joined by Rep. Four Price, R-Amarillo, and Reva Verma, an American Diabetes Association volunteer and Texan with diabetes that has been impacted by high insulin prices.
“In the last 20 years, the price of insulin has skyrocketed 1200%,” Talarico said.
“No diabetic in the state should go without their insulin just because they can’t afford it,” he stated.
Opponents of the bill, like the Texas Association of Health Plans, say the fix should target the drug manufacturers rather than the insurance companies.
“Copay cap mandates give Big Pharma too much power to set any price they wish for insulin, ultimately driving up the cost of care and increasing the cost of premiums for Texas employers and families,” stated TAHP CEO Jamie Dudensing, RN, in submitted testimony to the Texas House Insurance Committee.
TAHP also said the bill doesn’t apply to Texans without insurance, who likely have higher out-of-pocket healthcare costs.
If the measure passes, Texas would join 15 other states with similar laws on the books.
“We’ve had a chance to see how this has worked in other areas of the country, rural states, urban states, red states, blue states,” Talarico said.
“There have been threats, in every other instance where this has been introduced, that it would increase premiums and kick people off their insurance,” he added. “None of that has happened in the other states.”
“There’s clearly a problem here with our health care system and our insurance companies that I think it’s it’s the government’s responsibility to help fix,” he explained.