State government is using its purchasing power to help residents save on the cost of insulin, regardless of their insurance status. All consumers have to do is access an ID card to start saving.

“This is what a big purchaser can accomplish when the primary motivation is not profit but the public health of the people of the state of Connecticut,” Comptroller Kevin Lembo said Tuesday.

Lembo administers the state health plan, which serves more than 200,000 state and municipal employees, retirees and dependents. The initiative stemmed from discussions with the pharmaceutical industry about chipping away at the costs of medication in the interest of wellness, regardless of insurance status. Insulin seemed to be a good place to start, Lembo said. 

The State of Connecticut Drug Discount Program, announced in partnership with CVS Caremark early last month, allows any Connecticut resident, regardless of insurance status, to save on the price of some types of insulin by more than $100.

For example, a 10 ml vial of Novolin R may be available at a Wal-Mart for $25. But if that store is far away, the same prescription might cost as much as $137 at another pharmacy. With a  program card, the price would be $25.

Certain forms of Novo Nordisk insulin are available through the program at 50% less than the retail price. 

“It can be heartbreaking for the pharmacist when someone shows up and doesn’t have the $250 to pay for the medication,” Lembo said. 

State Rep. Eleni Kavros DeGraw, who sits on the Public Health Committee, said this program is big news for those living with diabetes. Kavros DeGraw said people who may not be able to afford insulin might skip a dose here or there because they can’t afford the medication. 

“This isn’t like skipping Tylenol for a headache,” Kavros DeGraw said. Making sure residents have the medication they need can be the difference between life and death, and prevent long-term health issues, thereby saving on medical costs down the road, she added.

“The fact is, this is going to address the rising cost of insulin, which has been around for a very long time, and yet we continue to see the costs rising,” Kavros DeGraw said. 

The Avon Democrat said her constituents often voice concerns to her about the rising cost of prescription medications, not just insulin. 

Lembo said his office will see how this program does with the insulin first, and then will start the work to add on more medications to the discount list. 

Residents can go online and create a personalized discount card to access the discounts at a wide variety of network pharmacies. Participants must show their discount cards when purchasing the medications. A list of the discounted medications is available here