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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Michael Howard (DFL)

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Minnesota House expected to approve the Alec Smith Insulin Affordability Act

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

St. Paul, MN – This evening, the Minnesota House DFL Majority will approve the Alec Smith Insulin Affordability Act, which would ensure Minnesotans with diabetes have access to affordable insulin when they need it most. After the Republican-led Senate refused to include insulin affordability legislation in the final hours of the 2019 Legislative Session, House DFLers continued their efforts to provide affordable and emergency insulin to Minnesota’s diabetics, holding a series of town halls in communities across the state and bipartisan informational hearings during the legislative interim. Alec’s Bill is informed by the input from advocates over the summer and fall as well as bipartisan negotiations.

Minnesotans shouldn’t lose their lives because they can’t afford the lifesaving medications they need,” said House Speaker Melissa Hortman. “The Minnesota House DFL is passing a proposal that provides emergency access, long-term affordability, and is ready to implement right now. We are waiting for Republicans to recognize that the pharmaceutical industry created and profits from this crisis, and it must participate in funding a solution.”

Alec Smith passed away in 2017 at the age of 26 when he aged off of his parents’ health insurance and was forced to ration his insulin that he could no longer afford due to its high cost. Alec’s story is unfortunately not unique, as at least two more Minnesotans have died from insulin rationing since last year’s legislative session. These tragic stories have put a spotlight on the skyrocketing cost of insulin, which has tripled in the last ten years. Studies indicate that 1 in 4 diabetics have resorted to rationing their medication due to the lack of access to affordable insulin.

The skyrocketing price increases for drugs like insulin have to do with one thing: greed,” said House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler. “The Minnesota House DFL is taking action and holding the pharmaceutical industry accountable for a crisis they created and have profited from. Lives are on the line — we can't let one more person lose their life because they can't afford the medication that keeps them alive.”

The Alec Smith Insulin Affordability Act creates a statewide insulin assistance program to help Minnesotans who struggle to afford the insulin they desperately need. Minnesotans struggling to afford their insulin can apply and receive an emergency fill of insulin at their community pharmacy. In addition, they will be connected with options for long-term affordable insulin coverage. Alec’s Bill would also cap co-pays for insulin at $30 per month for patients on state-regulated health insurance plans.

Alec’s Bill is the product of more than a year of work with patients, health care providers and other stakeholders. It has the backing of organizations representing patients, doctors, nurses and pharmacists, including the AARP, Minnesota Nurses Association, Minnesota Medical Association and Minnesota Pharmacists Association. The bill also includes compromises with Republicans, including a $30 co-pay for patients and state set-up costs that total roughly $1 million. Alec’s Bill will largely be funded by a fee on the three multi-national insulin manufacturers that control over 90 percent of the market and recorded $20 billion in profits in the last 12 months.

“Minnesotans with diabetes are in a fight for their lives because of the immoral cost of their insulin, and the Minnesota Legislature needs to have their backs,” said Rep. Michael Howard. “Alec’s Bill says that no Minnesotan should lose their life because they can’t afford their insulin and that drug manufacturers have a role in solving a crisis of their own making. We cannot afford to wait another day to get this to the Governor’s desk because lives are on the line.” 

A top priority for the House DFL, the Alec Smith Insulin Affordability Act made seven committee stops in seven days, becoming one of the first pieces of legislation to be passed off a chamber floor this session.