MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Senator Tina Smith is making her first big push in Washington, D.C.
The former lieutenant governor of Minnesota was appointed in December after Al Franken resigned from the office. On Sunday, Smith introduced a bill that she hopes will have a big impact on Americans who rely on prescription drugs.
As Susan-Elizabeth Littlefield shows us, she got very personal with some Minnesotans who are swimming in debt because of their medications.
For some, pills are an occasional necessity. For others, medications are a daily lifeline.
“It’s keeping my cancer at bay at this point and it’s keeping me sustaining work and enjoy my family,” Rachel Malmberg said.
Before she battled cancer, Rachael Malmberg battled other teams on the ice. She played for the Gophers and in the Olympics. She’s never smoked in her life.
“Found a mass in my right lung and shortly thereafter I was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer with mets to my lymph nodes and my brain,” Malmberg said.
Her daily medicine is stabilizing her cancer, but comes at great cost to her and her young daughter.
“My out of pocket cost is $9,000 a month, with insurance, that’s with insurance yes,” Malmberg said.
Malmberg and several other Minnesotans shared their stories of exorbitant out-of-pocket costs with Senator Smith.
Paul Skrbec says he pays about $40,000 per year for medications for HIV treatment.
“We’ve got to be able to do better than this in this country,” Smith said.
So she is sponsoring her first bill in hopes it would lower costs and require transparency with drug companies, and more access to generics.
“I have a bill that would stop these big brand name drug companies from paying the generic drug companies from keeping their products off the market, that’s just wrong,” Smith said.
So, she says she’ll fight as they fight.
“It’s either life or give into the cancer so I choose to take on that debt and continue to give myself a fighting chance,” Malmberg said.
Senator Smith believes her bill is similar to one endorsed by President Trump, so she has hope for bi-partisan support.