New Cigna plan caps monthly out-of-pocket insulin costs at $25

Cigna and Express Scripts announced April 3 they’re launching a Patient Assurance Program that will ensure individuals with diabetes pay no more than $25 out-of-pocket for insulin each month.

A typical 30-day supply of insulin cost Cigna enrollees an average of $41.50 in 2018, according to a release, so the Patient Assurance Program would slash out-of-pocket costs including deductibles, copays and coinsurance for most of those patients by at least 40%.

“For people with diabetes, insulin can be as essential as air,” Steve Miller, MD, executive vice president and chief clinical officer at Cigna, said in the release. “We need to ensure these individuals feel secure in their ability to afford every fill so they don’t miss one dose, which can be dangerous for their health. Together, Cigna and Express Scripts are now able to give people who rely on insulin greater affordability and cost predictability so they can focus on what matters most: their wellbeing.”

A study published in JAMA Internal Medicine last December found some 25% of the 24 million diabetics in the U.S. compromise on their insulin dosages to save money—a statistic that reflects the rapid inflation in insulin prices over the past decade. The monthly wholesale cost of Humulin, the country’s most popular insulin brand, jumped from $258 in 2010 to $1,100 in 2015.

Patients with high deductibles and premiums often can’t afford those price hikes, sometimes opting to go uninsured rather than meet minimum out-of-pocket costs that in many cases exceed $7,000. NPR reported a single vial of insulin is around $250 without insurance, and uninsured patients are forced to shell out $1,300 every month to get access to their medicine.

Cigna patients enrolled in the new program will not only save on those costs, but they’ll also “gain peace of mind in knowing they will have access to improved care,” according to the release. Patients with plans that involve coinsurance or a high deductible will likely benefit most from the assurance program.

“We are confident that our new program will remove cost as a barrier for people in participating plans who need insulin,” Miller said. “Better care and better outcomes are rooted in greater choice, affordability and access, and we can bring all of these to people with the greatest needs.”

Cigna isn’t the only entity looking to expand accessibility to insulin—after a pricing pushback last month, drug manufacturer Eli Lilly announced it would start selling a half-priced version of its insulin medication Humalog. The new drug, marketed as Lispro, will cost $137.35 per vial.