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'Champion' Nebraska state senators helped lower insulin costs, strengthen telehealth

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Deborah Van Fleet

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(Nebraska News Connection) As of January 1, insulin will become a lot more affordable for many Nebraskans, and those who have come to rely on telehealth visits are more likely to be able to continue receiving care this way.

The state senators who helped bring about these changes have received 2023 AARP "Champion Awards."

Sen. Eliot Bostar, D-Lincoln, was named a "Champion for Prescription Drug Affordability." His bill led to an out-of-pocket price cap of $35 for Tier 1 insulin.

Jina Ragland, associate state director of advocacy and outreach for AARP Nebraska, said it could make a big difference for people, some of whom might not have been able to take their medications as prescribed. 

"They're rationing medications because they can't afford them, and they're trying to pay for groceries or utility bills or whatever," Ragland observed. "Which, for diabetes and insulin-dependent individuals, can be deadly."

Sen. Tom Brewer, R-Gordon, received a "Champion for Family Caregivers" award for his legislation to help ensure access to telehealth services. It requires insurance companies to pay in-state providers at least as much for telehealth visits as for in-person visits.

Ragland pointed out telehealth can make a huge difference, especially for those in rural parts of the state. She noted the telehealth option can spare some Nebraskans many hours of driving to appointments. 

"How many people have a loved one that's an older parent that may have to take off a full day of work to drive from rural Nebraska," Ragland stressed. "Either into Grand Island, Lincoln, Omaha - or if they're going the other way, even into Denver or parts of Wyoming?"

Ragland expects telehealth will continue to grow in popularity, and believes it will help with the workforce shortage at Nebraska's rural clinics and hospitals.

"As people become more and more comfortable and have the connectivity, they're able to utilize this service," Ragland emphasized. "I think even for the provider side, it saves a lot of time for them, also, in meeting the needs of more people, I think, in a more time-efficient and effective model."

She added telehealth can contribute greatly to a person's ability to remain as independent as possible while "aging in place."