Well-Being Prevention & Cures

Cost of insulin is driving Americans into debt, study finds

CharityRX found people take on $9,0000 of debt on average to cover insulin costs.
Suriyawut Suriya/ iStock

Story at a glance


  • A new survey found the cost of insulin has caused many diabetic Americans to go into debt, ration their medication and struggle to pay for other living expenses. 

  • Eighty-three percent of respondents said they’ve feared not being able to pay for things such as clothing, food and rent because of high insulin costs. 

  • Congress is trying to bring relief to Americans by introducing the Affordable Insulin Now Act, which would cap the out-of-pocket cost of insulin at $35. 

For those Americans who are diabetic, the cost of life-saving insulin medication has become exorbitant and forced many to go into debt, ration their medication and cut core living expenses, according to a new report.  

The survey, released this month by CharityRx, comes as a bipartisan group of lawmakers are working to cap the cost of insulin.  

Diabetes is considered the most expensive chronic condition in the U.S., with diabetics required to take daily insulin medication, with the average cost of insulin increasing 11 percent annually from 2001 to 2008, according to the American Action Forum. The average annual per capita insulin cost is nearing $6,000. 

CharityRX surveyed 2,000 U.S. adults who have diabetes and/or provide care to someone with the condition, with and without health insurance. 

Seventy-nine percent of respondents said insulin has posed a financial difficulty for them personally or for those in their care, while 4 in 5 said they had to take on credit card debt to afford insulin. 

CharityRX found Americans on average take on $9,000 of debt to cover insulin costs.  


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That cost carries serious implications, as 83 percent of respondents indicated they’ve feared not being able to pay for living expenses — such as clothing, food and their rent or mortgage — due to high insulin costs. 

The pressure to afford insulin even drove 63 percent of people to consider selling prized personal possessions and 32 percent to consider selling prescriptions or illicit drugs to get the money needed to buy insulin.   

More than half of respondents, 62 percent, skipped and/or adjusted their insulin dosage to cut down on costs. 

That’s dangerous, as insulin maintains the body’s glucose levels and if left unchecked can lead to serious complications like blindness, nerve damage and kidney damage. 

“While the pandemic has made this situation worse, insulin rationing is a crisis that has been decades in the making. The price of insulin nearly tripled between 2002 and 2013, and the trend upward has made affording this life-saving medication even more challenging for millions of Americans living with diabetes,” said the American Diabetes Assocation, in a statement

Congress is trying to bring relief to Americans by introducing the Affordable Insulin Now Act, which would cap the out-of-pocket cost of insulin at $35, or 25 percent of a health insurance plan’s negotiated price — whichever is less.

That cost-cap has a potential cost savings of 91 percent, according to CharityRX. 

However, the $35 cost-cap only applies to Americans who have health insurance, whether through private plans or Medicaid. Eight percent of Americans did not have health insurance at any point during the year in 2019, according to the Census Bureau, which translates to about 26 million people. 

The bill still carries potential to bring financial relief to millions of Americans managing diabetes, which passed the House in March and is currently being worked out in the Senate.