ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) – A safety net that offered help to a half-million Minnesotans was left out of a final deal at the Capitol.
The bill would have provided a free emergency supply of insulin to anyone unable to afford skyrocketing prices.
In the final chaotic hours of the legislature, it appears this bill failed in part because Senate Republicans didn’t think it was ready – that too many details about who might qualify and how to pay for it were not included.
The bill was named for Alec Smith, a 26-year-old who died in 2017 because he could not afford his lifesaving $1,300 refill of insulin.
Earlier this month, Alec’s mother, Nicole Smith-Holt, and other members of the group Minnesota #insulin4all lobbied lawmakers to provide a 90-day free emergency insulin supply. Smith-Holt says supporters of the measure were stunned to see it left out.
“We were shocked. We thought there must be some kind of mistake,” Smith-Holt said. “We felt completely blindsided.”
Republican Sen. Scott Jensen is a Carver County physician who initially supported the measure but ultimately voted against it
“There were too many loopholes,” Jensen said.
Jensen said there was simply too much uncertainty about how the free insulin would be distributed.
“There were too many questions about who would qualify and for how long,” Jensen added.
Smith-Holt and Minnesota #insulin4all are vowing to push for the bill next legislative session. In the meantime, they plan to organize buying trips to Canada, where inulin is over the counter and one-tenth the price it is in the United States.
Smith-Holt and other activists stress their end goal is not just this safety net measure, but to force companies to lower insulin prices. She is so frustrated by the legislative process she is also considering a run for Minnesota Senate.