MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — After a long debate at the state Capitol, the Senate passed an insulin reform bill Thursday.

The Alec Smith Emergency Insulin Affordability Act – which provides 30 days of emergency insulin to any Minnesota resident – passed unanimously. The program is available for all who need it and includes care for urgent and ongoing needs.

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All insulin in the new Senate plan is provided by insulin companies with additional co-pays. A long-term component of the program helps patients afford a 90-day supply of insulin for a $25 co-pay.

The bill is named for Alec Smith, a 26-year-old who passed away in June 2017 after he was forced to ration insulin he could not afford.

Since then, groups of community activists have repeatedly pled to legislators so supply emergency insulin. On Feb. 11, the first day of the new Minnesota legislative session, Shari Wiltrout pulled out $2,190 in single bills, demonstrating what it would cost her to pay for the drug if health insurance did not cover it.

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The insulin plan has been hotly contested in the Minnesota House and Senate. It was one of the main pieces of unfinished business left over from the 2019 session.

Since then, Democrats and Republicans have been working to compromise. The main point of contention was the question of who would have to pay for the insulin. Leaders of the House Democratic majority and Gov. Tim Walz wanted the manufacturers to cover most of the costs, while Senate GOP members said companies and the state should share the costs more evenly.

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According to the bill, pharmacies which dispense insulin must participate in the program. Those who do not participate will incur penalties of $100,000 a month. The state has also allocated $847,000 from the health care access fund to the implementation of the bill.

“We are keeping our promise – no one will slip through the cracks,” said Republican Sen. Scott Jensen. “I am proud of this bill. We are not conforming to what manufacturers told us we need to do, but rather what needs to be done for Minnesotans.:

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“There is also more work that still needs to be done,” added Democratic Sen. Matt Little. “I’m disappointed that the bill has a 2.5 year sunset to the program rather than guaranteeing long-term stability. The long-term challenges of affordability and access remain, and I remain committed to working to ensure every Minnesotan can afford the medications they depend on.”