Hy-Vee is lending a hand to diabetes patients not covered by Medicare who seek lower-cost insulin.
West Des Moines, Iowa-based Hy-Vee said Thursday that it has launched an insulin savings website that enables patients to quickly locate manufacturer-sponsored discount cards for their insulin medications and submit them directly to Hy-Vee Pharmacy for processing to get the reduced price.
Hy-Vee’s online insulin savings tool is aimed at diabetes patients with commercial or private health insurance and those who are underinsured or pay for medications in cash. In January, Medicare diabetes patients became eligible for a $35-per-month, out-of-pocket insulin cost cap when the federal Inflation Reduction Act went into effect. However, those not under Medicare Part D still are subject to high insulin pricing unless they access drug manufacturer savings cards.
To that end, Hy-Vee’s website provides direct links to download discount cards from the three largest insulin producers—Eli Lilly, Novo Nordisk and Sanofi—that apply to hundreds of insulin products. There’s also a button that calls up a Hy-Vee Pharmacy form for uploading the insulin savings card selected, filling in the necessary information and submitting the discount request. Once processed, the patient’s insulin prescription will be ready for pickup at the reduced price, the Midwestern food and drug retailer said. Patients are asked to allow 24 hours of processing time before visiting a Hy-Vee pharmacy to retrieve their insulin order.
Hy-Vee made the insulin savings resource available this week. Using the discount cards, eligible patients ages 18 and older can get a 28-day supply of selected insulins for as low as $35 a month. Hy-Vee said all of its pharmacies accept the manufacturer insulin discount cards and, once submitted online, the savings will be applied automatically to future qualifying insulin prescriptions for up to 12 months.
“Our goal is to make it even easier for patients to manage their diabetes by increasing access to affordable insulin,” Hy-Vee President Aaron Wiese said in a statement. “By bringing more awareness to manufacturer-sponsored savings cards, we can help more patients save on their monthly insulin prescription at Hy-Vee Pharmacy.”
Overall, Hy-Vee operates more than 275 in-store and freestanding retail pharmacies in Iowa, Illinois, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, South Dakota and Wisconsin, which serve up a full range of pharmacy care—including online prescription refills—plus vaccination and wellness services. In addition, Hy-Vee has more than 70 in-store retail health clinics and operates its own fleet of mobile health units.
Insulin costs have skyrocketed
According to data from the American Diabetes Association (ADA), the average cost of insulin almost tripled from 2002 to 2013, and the price of the four most popular types of insulin has tripled over the past decade. Insulin costs 10 times more in the United States than in other nations, and people with diabetes account for $1 of every $4 spent on health care in the U.S., the association said.
In total, over 37 million Americans have diabetes, and 8.4 million must use insulin to survive, the ADA reported. Still, surveys by the association have found that one in four insulin users cut back or skip doses because of cost.
Research by pharmacy discount program GoodRx Health revealed that the average cash price per insulin unit—the basic measure used for dosing—rose 54% from January 2014 to April 2019 and then dropped just 7.1% between January 2020 and January 2023.
In response to the Medicare insulin price cap and calls by the Biden administration and federal lawmakers to lower pricing, Eli Lilly, Novo Nordisk and Sanofi this year announced plans to bring down insulin pricing.
At the start of March, Lilly said it has initiated price reductions of 70% for its most commonly prescribed insulins and an expansion of its Insulin Value Program that caps patient out-of-pocket costs at $35 or less per month. Also in March, Novo Nordisk unveiled a plan to reduce U.S. list prices of several insulin products by up to 75% for people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes, with the changes to be effective Jan. 1, 2024. And then in June, Sanofi said that, starting on Jan. 1, it would cut the list price of Lantus, its most widely prescribed insulin in the U.S., by 78% and establish a $35 cap on out-of-pocket costs for Lantus for all patients with commercial insurance.
In late March, Sens. Raphael Warnock (D., Georgia) and John Kennedy (R., Louisiana) introduced the bipartisan Affordable Insulin Now Act of 2023 (S.954) to cap the price of insulin for all patients, including those who are uninsured, at $35 for a 30-day supply. The bill remains in committee. That legislation came a couple of weeks after Reps. Angie Craig (D., Minnesota), Dan Kildee (D., Michigan) and Lucy McBath (D., Georgia) reintroduced the Affordable Insulin Now Act (H.R. 1488) to cap insulin co-payments at $35 per month for diabetes patients under private insurance.
Twenty-five states and the District of Columbia also have capped insulin co-pays at varying levels for state-regulated commercial health insurance plans.