Editor's Note: This article is reprinted with permission from Beyond Type 1, as part of their ongoing COVID-19 coverage.
Written by Todd Boudreaux
On April 7, 2020, Eli Lilly announced the introduction of the Lilly Insulin Value Program, allowing people without health insurance and people with commercial health insurance in the United States to fill their monthly prescription of Lilly insulin for $35 per month through a new copay card.
“Too many people in the U.S. have lost their jobs because of the COVID-19 crisis, and we want to make sure no one goes without their Lilly insulin,” said Mike Mason, president, Lilly Diabetes. “We’ve been providing affordability solutions for a long time, but more is needed to help people during this unprecedented period. People with commercial insurance, as well as those without insurance at all, are eligible, and the process is quick and simple. We want people who need help to call us.”
Andy Vicari, US Insulin Brand Leader for Lilly Diabetes, spoke to Beyond Type 1 and answered some of the most pressing questions about this new program, including the process for obtaining the savings card, how the program will work with insurance, how long it will last, and why it was introduced at this time.
Who Is Eligible for This Program?
This program is available to patients in the US with commercial insurance, including those with high deductible plans. Notably, this program is also available to US patients without commercial insurance, a subset who have been excluded from using copayment cards in the past.
The Lilly Insulin Value Program is NOT available to patients with any government insurance including Medicaid or Medicare. Patients who are not eligible are still encouraged to call the Lilly Diabetes Solutions Center for advice on other cost-saving measures. However, last month the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) launched a new plan for some Medicare Part D participants to pay a maximum $35 copay for their monthly supply of insulin.
If you do not qualify or do not take Lilly Insulin, explore options here.
How Does It Work?
Patients with an active prescription for a Lilly insulin should call the Lilly Diabetes Solution Center at 833-808-1234. From there, patients can choose whether to receive the savings card via email (expected within 24 hours of placing a call) or in the mail.
If you are filling prescriptions for more than one Lilly insulin, (for example Humalog and Basaglar) you will have a separate $35 monthly copay for each product. If you have an active copay card with Lilly, it will automatically be updated to the new $35 price point. The card will be good for the remainder of the year until January 2021, when it will need to be renewed.
Which Insulins Are Covered and How Much Can You Get?
Most Lilly insulins, including Humalog formulations and Basaglar are covered by this new program.
When asked how much insulin a patient could fill in a month, Vicari told Beyond Type 1 that although they monitor quantities in the background to prevent abuse of the system, “There’s effectively no cap… Patients will be able to get their Lilly insulin for $35 a month, regardless of the dosage.”
Update 4/9: After reports of a $7,500 limit, we reached out for clarification.
Wade Neucks, Director of the Patient Affordability Solutions Team at Lilly Diabetes told Beyond Type 1 “The $7,500 is an annual limit, not lifetime. The limit is based on the amount Lilly covers at the pharmacy and not the list price. In the very rare event that someone meets that limit, they should call the Lilly Diabetes Solution Center back and ask for help. The Solution Center can work with your pharmacy to see if an adjustment to your solution is necessary.”
Vicari also said that those with deductibles, including people with high deductible health plans (HDHPs), should see these $35 copays count towards their deductible.
“If they are covered by Lilly insulin today on their insurance plan, and they use this card, it will count towards their deductible… barring some strange benefit designs… In general, we have seen all insurance [companies] are warm to leveraging these [programs] for their individual customers.”
How Long Will the Program Last?
Although the press release cites the new $35 copay program as a direct response to the COVID-19 crises in America, it may be here to stay, and will at least last until the end of 2020.
Vicari told Beyond Type 1 “We’re always looking at all of our programs just based on the changing landscape in the healthcare system, but we have no plans to stop this program post-Coronavirus, whenever that is. It’s just something we felt was the right decision — prompted certainly by what’s happening today — but we don’t have plans in place to stop the program. We always look at all of our programs on an annual basis to make sure they’re optimized for the breadth that we need to cover: as many people as we can that are touched by Lilly insulins.”
When asked about the timing of this new $35 copay program, Vicari framed it as a natural progression of increased affordability options Lilly has offered recently, citing the company’s partnership with Blink Health in 2016, the launch of the Lilly Diabetes Solutions Center in 2018, and the introduction of a 50% generic version of Humalog (insulin lispro) in 2019.
“The short answer, it was prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic and is what we needed to do. At the same time this is not a new behavior for us, in that we’re constantly looking for new things that we can be doing and should be doing to impact the market, certainly people that are taking our insulins… In a time like this you have to pull out all the stops to get whatever you can done.”
Beyond Type 1 and One Drop are hopeful that this move by Lilly Diabetes puts pressure on other insulin manufacturers to follow suit and drastically expand insulin assistance programs, for all insulins and all patients, especially those who are uninsured or enrolled in high deductible health plans.