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'Not every day you get to save lives:' Montanans rejoice over insulin cap

Mackenzie Gordon
Posted at 11:07 AM, Jan 05, 2024

On Jan. 1, a bill passed by the 2023 Montana Legislature putting a cap on the insulin prices for insured patients went into effect, bringing relief to thousands statewide.

The cap prevents insulin from being more than $35 per month.

For many families, including the Gordons in Billings, the change alleviates one of the many burdens of living with the condition. Their 11-year-old daughter Mackenzie found out she has Type 1 diabetes when she was nine.

"I just really didn't know how to react," Mackenzie said Thursday afternoon, remembering the day she received her diagnosis. "I just really didn't even think that was possible."

Her next few days were filled with concern.

"Definitely fear because I thought that everything would be way different," Mackenzie said. "I thought that maybe people wouldn’t want to talk to me anymore."

Mackenzie's mother Jen was understandably distraught when they received the diagnosis.

"The hardest thing in the world is seeing your child go through something and not being able to fix it," Jen said.

Jen added that it completely changed the day-to-day schedule of their lives.

"I just remember I would wake up in the morning, and think, 'Oh well, it was all a dream,'" Jen said. "Then I'd realize it wasn't a dream."

That harsh reality for the Gordons is much like many other residents around the state. According to family medicine physician Ben Wilde, the number of cases of the disease has risen significantly.

"Overall, the prevalence of diabetes has doubled in the past 20 years," Wilde said.

Wilde added that along with the rise in cases, the price of insulin has increased.

"Things changed, and the prices went up exponentially for several years," Wilde said. "Whereas someone would pay $30-40 a month for their insulin, it now would jump over $300 and really became inaccessible."

But fortunately, those struggles will soon be made more tolerable. Montana state Sen. Jason Small, a Republican who represents Big Horn County and the surrounding area, helped put together a bill that capped the insulin price.

"It's not every day you get the opportunity to help save lives," Small said. "This helps make something better for somebody, so I was all over it."

Small said he was approached by a group about passing the legislation and was thrilled by the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of many.

"Either you can afford to buy the stuff that's going to save your life, or you can't," Small said. "We just made it to where, gee whiz, pretty much everybody can."

Even at the age of 11, Mackenzie understood the significance of the bill being passed.

"I'm pretty happy because I didn't know how expensive this stuff was when I first received my diagnosis," Mackenzie said. "I looked up the price and figured out how much it was and I was a little bit worried that other people with diabetes like me couldn't get their insulin."

And Dr. Wilde said he can't wait to see the impact in his own patients.

"This will improve care and as a result will improve my patient's outcomes," Wilde said. "It's a huge deal."