Insulin price cap, daylight saving time measures advance at Statehouse

11/12/2019

Rep. Will Guzzardi, back left, and Rep. Tom Demmer, front right, discuss Senate Bill 667, which would cap the out-of-pocket insurance costs for state-regulated health insurance plans, during a House committee meeting Tuesday at the Capitol in Springfield. The bill was approved by the committee 13-2, with Demmer one of the votes in opposition. (Credit: blueroomstream.com)

Effects of both bills would be limited by federal law

By JERRY NOWICKI

Capitol News Illinois
Jnowicki@capitolnewsillinois.com

SPRINGFIELD — Legislation aimed at capping the out-of-pocket costs of prescription insulin for those with state-regulated health care plans passed a House committee Tuesday with bipartisan support and a 13-2 favorable roll call.

Senate Bill 667 now awaits a vote from the full House of Representatives. Because of a technical amendment added by the House, the bill would need to be approved again by the Senate before heading to the desk of Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker, who has been a vocal supporter of the measure.

The bill would cap the price for a 30-day supply of insulin at $100 for people covered under certain kinds of insurance policies.

Chicago Democratic Rep. Will Guzzardi, the bill’s sponsor, said it would apply to those purchasing insurance on the marketplace, as well as public plans such as the state employee health program. He added it would apply to roughly 20 percent of Illinois’ population — about 260,000 of an estimated 1.3 million insulin users.  

Guzzardi called the measure “an important first step, though of course not a solution,” to the rising costs of insulin in Illinois and in the U.S.

It would not limit how much drug companies can charge for insulin. Rather, it would force insurance companies that would be covered by the new law to pick up a larger share of the cost.

The bill also would not apply to plans offered by large employers that are governed by the federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act because, Guzzardi said, the state cannot preempt federal law.

After an amendment, the legislation directs executive agencies to investigate why insulin prices have been rising sharply in recent years. The attorney general’s office was tasked with that investigation under a previous version of the bill.  

The measure faced questioning and two “no” votes from Republicans, who suggested price caps could create higher premiums for consumers.

“While I appreciate the fact that we need to continue to work to make necessary pharmaceuticals available to the people who need them, we really need to be respectful of the fact that we can only control it for a very small percentage of the population, we don’t have the ability to wave a magic wand and solve all the problems that exist,” Rep. Tom Demmer, R-Dixon, said. “And sometimes, and I know legislators don’t like to admit this, sometimes the decisions that we make have unintended consequences … and maybe cause problems for people that, today, don’t have them.”


DAYLIGHT SAVING TIME

A bill that would put Illinois permanently in Central Daylight Time passed the Senate with broad support Tuesday, but its sponsor said the bill couldn’t take effect without further action from the federal government.

Sen. Andy Manar, a Bunker Hill Democrat and sponsor of Senate Bill 533, said the bill “would require, of course, a change in federal law, or an exemption from Congress, neither of which exists today.”

The bill, which passed with 44 votes in favor, two against and two voting present, calls for setting clocks ahead one hour to daylight saving time on Sunday, March 8, 2020, then leaving the state on Central Daylight Time permanently.

Manar said the bill “is not being proposed so that we would be an island among ourselves in terms of how time is recognized.”

“But the only way it would change for Illinois by itself is what Arizona has done, and Congress has given them an exemption from federal law. This doesn’t seek that. This just says one of two things should happen: There should be a national change or, if Congress were to begin to give states exemptions, that obviously would be a different conversation here on this floor,” he said.  “This doesn’t say that we should ignore federal law.”

Sen. Linda Holmes, an Aurora Democrat, said the bill would work better if it went to standard time year-round, instead of daylight time. She cited a study which said daylight time eliminates bright morning light which is crucial to “synchronizing your biological clock.”

“We really need the maximum amount of daylight to be functioning,” she said.


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