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New bill introduced in Colorado State House could make EpiPens more affordable

New bill could lower cost of life saving medication for Coloradoans
New bill could lower cost of lifesaving medication for Coloradans 02:12

A new bill could make EpiPens - a lifesaving medication - more affordable for Coloradans.

It can soon be a reality. The House Health and Insurance Committee unanimously passed the legislation to cap the cost of the devices on Friday.

Families with severe allergies frequently rely on EpiPens as they can potentially stop a deadly allergic reaction from happening.

Lindsey Smithson knows firsthand the importance of the EpiPen for her 5-year-old son, Lincoln, who has severe food allergies.

"My husband and I carry them for him, his teacher carries them for him at school," said Smithson.

At 5 months old her son had a severe allergic reaction to peanut butter, nearly killing him. That's when she knew this EpiPen would be essential to her son's life.

"He was dying in front of me as I held him, I watched epinephrine save his life," said Smithson.

But it is pricey.  

She spends at least $336.64 every year, sometimes in months just updating the medication for her son.

"The generic cost at the time of writing this was $168.42 per pack, costing $336.64 every year. It's better than the alternative which would cost us $1,000," she said. "I know this because I have to budget it every year."

It doesn't always work, sometimes she has to step out of budget.

"Sometimes you are forced to buy the name brand, which you can't afford, but you have to keep your son alive," said Smithson.

This new bill would aim to eliminate those costs by creating the EpiPen affordability program where uninsured Coloradans can apply online to obtain low-cost EpiPens.

The bill also requires insurers to cap the out-of-pocket cost to $60 for a two-pack.

In 2007, a two-pack of EpiPen cost less than a hundred dollars, but now the average cost for a name-brand two-pack is more than $600.

This bill would aim to help the more than 500,000 Coloradans experiencing severe food allergies.

"No Coloradan should have to worry about how they're going to afford medication like EpiPens that can be the difference between life and death," said State Rep. Iman Jodeh, a Democrat whose district includes Aurora. "For those of us who have an invisible disability, you constantly worry 'is today the day I will need my life-saving medication?'"

"Worrying that people won't know how to react or be able to access the medication you need," Jodeh continued. "Limiting out-of-pocket costs will greatly improve access for people of color, low-income, disabled, rural and senior communities that are both more reliant on emergency medication like EpiPens and less likely to have health insurance coverage. We must ensure that every Coloradan can access emergency medication, no matter their income or background."

The Colorado Association of Health Plans says this would drive up health insurance premiums.

The bill will now move to the House Appropriations Committee.

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