Print Friendly, PDF & Email

As the 2023 General Assembly gets set for a full legislative session, representatives and State Senators are prepping their bills; each can propose up to five bills for consideration during a legislative session. Most proposed legislation dies in committee, and some proposed legislation gets combined with other proposals. Some make it out of their respective committees and get moved to the finance committee; a critical step because only proposals that get funded have a chance of becoming state law.

Colorado State Capitol. Photo courtesy of Pixabay.

This past week, the House Health and Insurance Committee unanimously passed legislation to cap the cost of life-saving epinephrine ejector devices by a vote of 10-0.

Parents and those with life-threatening allergies may begin to rejoice as the medication can make the difference between life and death for those highly sensitive to allergens such as nuts, or if stung by a bee.  If it becomes law, it would take effect on January 1, 2024.

“While corporations hike up drug prices to reach record profits, families have been left with no choice but to budget for large expenses for their life-saving medication,” said Rep. Javier Mabrey, D-Denver. “Currently, EpiPens cost Coloradans 43 times what manufacturers spend to make them. Price gouging has emptied the pockets of Colorado families for far too long, which is why we’ve introduced this bill to limit profiteering off of this life-saving medicine.”

An epinephrine auto-injector is a medical device that is used to dispense epinephrine, a hormone that quickly combats life-threatening reactions including swollen airways and rapidly dropping blood pressure. It is commonly used by people with moderate to severe allergies, in addition to other medical issues, to prevent a fatal anaphylactic reaction.

Epinephrine auto-injectors are commonly referred to by the trademark name “EpiPen”, which was acquired by one company in 2007. Since then, prices have increased more than 660 percent to $690 for a two-pack. Because Epi-pens expire a year after purchase, Coloradans have been forced to spend hundreds of dollars annually for medication that can save them from potentially lethal reactions.

“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 Rep. Iman Jodeh, D-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. 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.”

HB23-1002 was highlighted by the Colorado House Democrats as legislation that drives the key agenda for the 2023 Legislative Session. It creates the EpiPen Affordability Program, where uninsured Coloradans with a prescription can apply online through the Colorado Division of Insurance to obtain low-cost epinephrine auto-injectors. Under this bill, manufacturers would be required to post access to the program on their websites. The bill also requires insurance carriers that provide coverage for epinephrine auto-injectors to cap the out-of-pocket cost to $60 for a two-pack.

A report from 2021 found that racial and ethnic, rural, disabled, lower-income, and LGBTQ+ communities are more likely to be exposed to conditions, environments, and health risks that can lead to health problems. Lower-income and BIPOC communities are more likely to live in areas with poor air quality, which can cause children to develop long-term asthma issues.

With more than 500,000 Coloradans experiencing severe food allergies and more than 430,000 Coloradans with asthma, this bill will help nearly a million individuals and families across the state get low-cost access to the emergency medication they need.

This legislation is modeled after a successful policy passed by Colorado Democrats in recent years to limit profiteering from essential medication. Senator Dylan Roberts and then-Senator Kerry Donovan sponsored HB21-1307, creating the Colorado Insulin Affordability Program and successfully reducing insulin prescription costs without shifting them to the marketplace or insurance policy consumers.

That bill caps monthly insulin costs at $100, regardless of the number of prescriptions a person may have. Insulin is used similarly to EpiPens in regulating bodily reactions. Without insulin or EpiPens, individuals can experience dangerous and potentially fatal symptoms.

To learn more about the legislation being introduced at the Colorado General Assembly follow this new email domain: