ST. PAUL (WCCO) — Finger pointing from both sides over a stalled emergency insulin bill produced a minor breakthrough Friday at the state capitol.
That’s where Governor Tim Walz met privately with both Senate and House authors of proposed insulin legislation. It was the first face-to-face meeting between the sides since the 2019 legislative session failed to produce a solution to the exorbitant cost of the drug for those whose lives depend on it.
On Thursday, Governor Walz called a news conference at the capitol to voice his growing anger and frustration for the inability to reach a compromise package.
In that appearance, Walz stated, “the way our system works is you come together and work out a compromise and you move that forward.”
The Governor’s tone changed noon Friday after the surprise 30-minute, closed-door meeting.
Emerging from the conference room with Republican Senator Eric Pratt, and Democratic Representative Michael Howard, the governor said progress is finally being made.
“This has the potential, as you can see both of these bills do address the different issues we all do care about,” explained Governor Walz.
Both Republican and Democratic leaders want to get emergency insulin into the hands of those patients who can’t afford it. The price of insulin has skyrocketed in recent years and has left those with poor or no health insurance to often choose between the lifesaving drug or buying food or housing.
Sadly, it has also resulted in a number of deaths among patients who were forced off their medicine.
The Senate bill addressed the problem by forcing drugmakers to give free insulin to doctors to distribute among needy patients. Senator Pratt called Friday’s meeting a fresh start on the eventual solution to the crisis.
“To work together as we take two bills, two concepts that are very different and try to find areas that we can agree upon,” explained Senator Pratt.
State Representative Michael Howard has authored the Alec Smith Emergency Insulin Act, named for the young man who lost his life because he could not afford insulin one month after losing health coverage under his parents.
Howard’s bill would place a fee on pharmaceutical companies to pay for up to a 90-day supply. Local pharmacies would be able to prescribe the insulin to patients whose prescriptions or supplies have expired.
Both versions would use an income threshold to determine who qualifies for the free drug.
“I’m really pleased by the progress from the meeting today, to come to some agreement on some of the most important concepts that I think will allow us to get to a solution,” said Representative Howard.
Once a compromise bill is reached, a special session will deliver the relief that vulnerable diabetics so desperately need.