U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist is taking a young activist with diabetes to the State of the Union Address in Washington D.C. Tuesday.
Washington lawmakers are allowed to choose a guest to attend the annual briefing that serves as the only event of the year that brings every member of the U.S. House and Senate under one roof along with the President, Vice President and members of the cabinet (with the exception of one designated survivor who watches the speech from an undisclosed location).
Crist chose 18-year-old Taylor McKenny, an activist for affordable access to insulin and other diabetic medical necessities. McKenny suffers from Type 1 Diabetes.
McKenny will join Crist in St. Pete Monday along with a group of friends she calls her “diabesties” to discuss skyrocketing insulin costs and ways lawmakers can hold pharmaceutical companies accountable for lower drug prices.
Crist is supporting the Lower Drug Costs Now Act, which would lower prescription drug prices for Medicare Part D patients by requiring cost negotiation and out-of-pocket expense caps.
But that legislation wouldn’t help people like McKenny who don’t qualify for Medicare. McKenny told WUSF in December that as an uninsured individual she pays about $3,200 a month for her diabetic supplies like insulin, test strips and needles.
“Now it’s come down to, ‘Do I want to pay for my college class? Or do I need to pay for my test strips or insulin?’” McKenny told WUSF. “It’s kind of like PTSD. You’re scared, you know. What’s going to happen?”
And there are other worries. When people can’t afford the high cost of treatment, they often resort to rationing medicine, which can be deadly.
Speaking at a press event covering the issue in December, McKenny referenced reports of college students dying because of rationing.
“They had to decide: Do I pay for my classes? Do I pay to eat? Or do I pay to live? Nobody should ever have to decide whether to pay for food or pay for your own life,” she said at the event, according to Bay News 9.
McKinney will speak Monday at Crist’s downtown St. Pete office located at 696 1st Ave. North, Suite 203 at 11:30 a.m. before leaving for Washington D.C. for the President’s address.