MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Minnesota lawmakers and stakeholders came together Thursday to debate the next steps in passing affordable insulin legislation.
Since the Alec Smith Emergency Insulin Bill failed to pass in the final hours of last legislative session, lawmakers have weighed options on how to move forward in addressing rising insulin costs. The bill is named after Alec Smith, a 26-year-old Minnesotan who died after being unable to afford his insulin.
The legislation would establish an emergency insulin supply for Minnesota diabetics who cannot afford their insulin by charging manufacturers a fee.
At a House Health and Human Services Finance Division meeting Thursday, the bill’s chief author, Rep. Michael Howard (DFL-Richfield), advocated for the provision’s passage in the upcoming session.
“We kept working. We heard from Minnesotans across the state who were frankly outraged that this legislature wasn’t able to get across the finish line,” Howard said.
The language of the bill has changed slightly since it failed to pass last session. The legislation now allows patients to attain the insulin from a pharmacy on the same day they need it.
But the hearing also highlighted partisan divisions on how insulin affordability should be funded in the state.
Rep. Jeremy Munson (R-Lake Crystal) said funding the program through manufacturer fees would incentivize the companies to increase costs, burdening those who don’t qualify for the assistance.
“This is really just going to be a fee that is put back on consumers of insulin who don’t qualify for the program, that they have now a much higher cost of insulin,” he said.
But Rep. Laurie Halverson (DFL-Eagan) argued the fee wouldn’t have an impact on prices.
“I would be shocked if they raised their prices because of something we did in Minnesota,” Halverson said. “They’ve raise their prices consistently since 1996 by 1200%.”
Senate Republicans introduced legislation earlier this month that would help provide insulin to patients making less than 400% of the federal poverty level and who are not eligible for other state or federal healthcare programs like Medicaid.
The Alec Smith Emergency Insulin Act, with its recent modifications, would cap incomes at 600% of the federal poverty level.
The Senate program would allow qualifying patients to receive free insulin provided by manufacturers through their doctors office. Patients would be eligible for the program for one year.
“This is a simple, workable plan that delivers insulin to the people in Minnesota who are currently priced out of the market,” said author Sen. Eric Pratt (R-Prior Lake) in a statement. “This plan will help thousands of families struggling to pay for the high costs of insulin through no fault of their own.”
But the program does not provide the same-day access that the Alec Smith Emergency Insulin Act does. Alec Smith’s mother, Nicole Smith-Holt, said at the hearing that both bills have provisions that can help address the larger problem.