Brother’s memory inspires Colorado legislator Dylan Roberts to push forward after bill fails
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Freshman lawmaker Dylan Roberts’ bill that would have required insulin manufacturers to be more transparent was defeated 3-2 along party lines in the Colorado State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee.
“I thought something like this with diabetes, insulin and the problem would resonate with people outside of political party,” Roberts said. “I think it did … I walk away from this motivated more than anything. I am proud and happy with the conversation and education we were able to do in this building, the Capitol building, about what Type 1 diabetes is. I was able to highlight a really unique and severe problem — the price of insulin.”
Roberts, a Democrat who was selected to fill the Colorado House District 26 seat vacated by Diane Mitsch Bush, understands the problem of high-priced insulin better than most. He had hoped the bill would survive a senate vote and advance to the Governor’s desk after it passed out of the full house last month.
His brother Murphy was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at age 10 and lived with it for the remainder of his life.
“My personal connection with my brother brought me to the issue, but I did as much as possible to make sure that I was looking at this from a purely public policy standpoint and making sure that this was actually good policy for the state of Colorado and my constituents. I believe that it is,” Roberts said.
“Nothing about whether it passed or not would have saved my brother’s life,” Roberts explained. “He passed not because he didn’t have insulin or because of the cost of insulin, but he made me want to advocate for that community. I guess the positive, even though it was a little sad, is that I got to meet a lot of kids like him who came to the Capitol to testify for this bill.”
Roberts lost his brother in 2016 when he had a diabetic seizure, fell and hit his head on the ground in southern Utah while hiking with their sister Cassady Roberts. The fall caused a series of complications that led to his death.
Murphy Roberts was one of the more than 1.25 million people in the U.S. living with Type 1 diabetes.
While Dylan Roberts was disappointed about the fate of his bill, he preferred to focus on the conversations that were inspired by it.
“I want to recruit more people who are interested in this, who are the stakeholders in this fight,” Roberts said. “Obviously, the pharmaceutical industry, the companies who make insulin, were totally opposed to this bill, but I did hear from them afterwards that they know it is a problem and so that was nice. They want to work with me on trying to figure out how to make this better, and I have that commitment from them.”
Roberts said he wants to work with the companies to craft a new bill and hopefully find support on the other side of the aisle to get it passed.
People with Type 1 diabetes do not produce insulin — the hormone produced in the pancreas that regulates the amount of glucose in the blood. Type 1 diabetics must inject insulin into their bodies each day to survive and must take blood glucose tests several times a day to make sure glucose levels do not climb to dangerously high or dangerously low levels, which can result in diabetic episodes like the one Murphy suffered while hiking.
“He would have been happy that I fought for it,” Roberts said. “He would have been probably more upset than I was that it didn’t pass because it literally affected him on a day-to-day basis. He would have encouraged me to keep going. He faced a ton of adversity in his life, every Type 1 diabetic does, but they keep going. They wake up every morning, and they get through it. So we will wake up at the end of this legislative session to try to make progress.”
To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209, email jrussell@SteamboatPilot.com or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966.
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