Tuesday Political Potpourri: ‘Insulin is too Expensive’ Edition

With algae bloom closing the lake to swimmers, local office holders and candidates are trying to portray themselves as chief protectors of Lake Hopatcong, the state’s largest freshwater lake, going forward.

Insulin makers should be embarrassed and NJ Senate President Steve Sweeney should apologize better.

That’s this week’s two-part NJ Political Potpourri.

Insulin Co-Pays

According to the Journal of American Medical Association, the cost of insulin tripled between 2002 and 2013. When patients skimp on their insulin, the negative health outcomes are predictable and expensive. For patients and for society. (Medicaid dialysis ain’t cheap, y’all.)

A bill (A954) to cap insulin co-pays at $50 passed an assembly hurdle last week in Trenton. The Assembly Financial Institutions and Insurance Committee heard several bills to level the playing field between pharmaceutical companies and people with diabetes.

This legislation also “provides that purchase of insulin is not subject to deductible; requires health insurers to limit copayments and coinsurance for insulin; requires insulin manufacturers to submit report to Commissioner of Banking and Insurance.”

That feels like a radically different regulatory climate than what we’re living in now.

The pharmaceutical companies who produce insulin are doing great. But increasingly, diabetics across New Jersey are struggling to afford their medicine. This includes type-1 diabetics like Aubrey Navarro-Conway of Sayreville who, despite being insured, works two full time jobs to afford the kind of insulin she needs.

“It was and still is hard for me to admit how desperate I am sometimes,” Ms. Conway-Navarro told lawmakers. “And like millions of Americans, I struggle to afford my copays. It took me a long time to understand the only ones who should feel embarrassment are the pharmaceutical companies getting rich off the desperation of me and patients like me.”

Ms. Navarro-Conway, who can’t tolerate generic insulin, says keeping diabetics healthy is a smart investment.

“I want you to go straight home and tell all your constituents how much money you saved them by sparing the costs of blindness, amputations, and dialysis as a result of organ failure due to unregulated blood sugars,” Ms. Navarro-Conway told lawmakers. 

Assemblywoman BettyLou DeCroce (R-Morris) said she came prepared to vote NO on A954 but changed her mind after Ms. Navarro-Conway’s persuasive, emotional testimony.

“Pass this bill so I can get back to my family family,” Ms. Navarro-Conway urged the committee, her voice cracking. “Pass this bill so I can get some rest and hopefully enjoy my children and life again, free from the constant feeling of impending doom – being just one tiny misstep, one extra late fee on a bill, one extra copay away from being unable to afford the next month’s insulin.”

Diabetics have enough to worry about without all that added stress, don’t you think?

The Assembly panel agreed and the bill passed, with 11 yes votes and 2 abstentions.

Sweeney’s Apology

Last week a committee investigating misogyny and rape culture in NJ politics convened for the first time up in Ft. Lee, NJ.

A union rep named Fran Ehret described an encounter from 10 years ago when NJ Senate President Steve Sweeney directed threats of physical violence at her.

In his apology statement, Sweeney claimed to “not share Ms. Ehret’s recollection of this meeting 10 years ago, however I will not dispute her statement from last night. Therefore, I extend my unequivocal apology.”

Let’s stop here to point out that an apology for something he can’t even recall is a curious way to express remorse.

“I have done my best as a public official and as a person who respects the role of women in all areas of life, to help break down the barriers they have long encountered and to advance the laws, policies and programs that will help provide equal rights and equal opportunities for all women,” Sweeney added.

Frist of all, Really!? Secondly, notice how quickly Sweeney moved from the apology part and onto self-praise?

But wait. He’s not done.

“This includes doing all that we can to do away with the misogynistic culture that continues to infect politics in New Jersey and elsewhere. That is a shared commitment that I will remain dedicated to,”

Meanwhile, here’s now Sweeney’s apology should have gone:

“I’m ashamed to admit that Fran Ehret’s version of the story is true and for that I’m truly sorry. Reflecting on my menacing behavior that day makes me feel embarrassed. So I’m sorry to Fran and I’m sorry for the example I set for the other men in the room that it’s ok to behave that way towards women. That’s not how leaders behave. I want to be part of the solution and so I’ll reflect on my behavior and on the example I’ve set for others and vow to do better.”

That wasn’t so hard was it?

Jay Lassiter is an award-winning writer, blogger, and podcaster. He’s good at apologies because he’s eaten a lot of crow. He’s on Twitter @Jay_Lass.


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