By John Lauritsen

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Diabetics joined Democratic lawmakers at the Capitol Thursday morning, to make a plea for affordable insulin.

The group is pushing for the “Alec Smith Insulin Affordability Act,” named after a Minneapolis man who died after rationing his insulin because he couldn’t afford it.

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Governor Tim Walz and Democratic lawmakers say the bill is a compromise between their ideas and Republican ideas.

“My insulin went up from $269 to $324 in the month of December for no reason,” said Alexis Stanley.

People with Type 1 Diabetes talked numbers at the press conference. In particular, how the high cost of insulin has forced them to ration the life-saving drug.

“I’m on disability and I receive $1,200 a month. My insulin costs are over $900 a month,” said Annette Gentile, who has Type 1 Diabetes.

Democratic leaders say their plan to help diabetics can begin immediately. They said the focus is on those most at risk, including the uninsured and people with high out-of-pocket costs. Part of the legislation includes a fee on pharmaceutical manufacturers to cover emergency insulin costs.

Democrats are asking for about a million dollars from the state for set-up costs for the program, and they believe there would be an estimated $10 million cost to pharmaceutical companies — a cost they believe the companies can afford.

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“There are 3 insulin manufacturers that control the entire global supply of insulin essentially. Those 3 companies had $80 billion in revenue in the last 12 months,” said Rep. Mike Howard (DFL- Richfield).

“That’s why I’m here today. We cannot afford to sit by and wait. Each and every day that we delay taking action puts another Minnesotan life at risk,” said Nicole Smith-Holt, Alec’s mom.

Republicans responded by saying they’re adding an emergency provision to their insulin proposal.

“The Republican plan is not to focus on punishing manufacturers but to make sure Minnesotans have access to stable, reliable and affordable supplies of insulin,” said Senator Eric Pratt (R- Prior Lake).

Senator Pratt said he’s looking for the state and insulin manufacturers to share costs.

“We’ve really tried to work in a non-partisan fashion with the understanding that we really just want to help Minnesotans,” said Pratt.

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Both sides said they were close to an agreement a couple of months ago before talks cooled off. They hope this re-starts talks before the session begins on February 11th.

John Lauritsen