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RELEASE: State Lawmakers Hold Bipartisan Roundtable to Address Soaring Cost of Insulin

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

SAINT PAUL, Minn. – Legislators, advocates, and Minnesotans with Type 1 diabetes met today at the Capitol for the first in a series of community conversations to discuss solutions to the high cost of insulin. In the coming weeks, House DFLers will hold more conversations outside of the Capitol to listen to Minnesotans impacted by the high cost of insulin. Details for each event will be announced after they are finalized.

“Minnesotans are rightly demanding that we take action to address a life and death issue facing Minnesotans who can't afford the insulin they need to survive - it's time for all of us to step up,” said Rep. Michael Howard (DFL – Richfield), author of the Alec Smith Emergency Insulin Act. “Insulin manufacturers that are profiting from the pain of Minnesotans need to step up. Senate Republican leaders that refuse to engage on this bill need to step up. We can't rest until we pass this bill because lives are literally on the line."  

This year, Rep. Howard introduced the Alec Smith Emergency Insulin Act to establish an emergency supply of insulin for Minnesotans who cannot afford their insulin, to be paid for by pharmaceutical companies who are profiting. The House approved the bill – named for a Richfield resident who tragically died after being forced to ration his insulin due to high costs – as part of its Health and Human Services budget. However, the measure stalled in the Senate.

“The DFL Majority in the Minnesota House remains ready to move forward on this important issue and ensure Minnesotans have access to the insulin they need to survive,” said Speaker of the House Melissa Hortman. “We are ready to finish the work we started during the legislative session when we passed a strong proposal to help Minnesotans and hold the pharmaceutical industry accountable for a crisis they created. I encourage Minnesotans to share their experiences and ideas as we continue these community conversations in the coming weeks."

After the legislative session adjourned, a bipartisan group of lawmakers have been meeting to develop the framework of an emergency insulin access program, and many of them participated in Wednesday’s roundtable.

Nicole Smith-Holt and James Holt – Alec’s parents – participated in the meeting, as did #Insulin4All advocates Quinn Nystrom, Lija Greenseid, Kim Munson, Abigail Hansmeyer and Michelle Cmela.

“Type 1s in these situations do not have days or weeks. They have hours before pain sets in and their body shuts down. They don’t have time to go to the doctor, they don’t have time to call a friend,” Smith-Holt said. “There’s a lot at stake. Precious human lives are at stake. We as a community have an obligation to save the lives of those who need help.”

The price of insulin has tripled in the last decade, and studies indicate that 1 in 4 diabetics have resorted to rationing their insulin due to the high cost.

“Minnesotans have died because drug manufacturers padded their wallets by raising the price of insulin year after year,” said Majority Leader Ryan Winkler. “It’s time for us to hold Big Pharma accountable for the tragedy and hardship they’ve caused for Minnesota families who struggle with the high cost of health care and prescription drugs.”

In late September, the House Health and Human Services Finance Division will hold a formal public hearing on the topic of insulin cost and accessibility, and will consider solutions discussed during the community conversations.

PHOTO: Rep. Michael Howard (DFL - Richfield), center, convened a State Capitol roundtable Wednesday to address the soaring cost of insulin. [LINK]

PHOTO: Quinn Nystrom of Baxter, an #insulin4all advocate, shared her experiences organizing caravans to Canada to obtain lower-cost insulin. [LINK]