Minnesota lawmakers agree on insulin plan but not how to pay

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz - AP image

Democratic Gov. Tim Walz repeated his support Monday for a fee on drug makers for insulin assistance.

Posted: Jul 29, 2019 1:46 PM
Updated: Jul 29, 2019 2:39 PM

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — A bipartisan group of Minnesota lawmakers said Monday that they have agreed on a plan to get emergency insulin to diabetics, but not on how to pay for it.

Democratic Gov. Tim Walz and legislative leaders from both parties tried to reach a deal on providing emergency insulin during the last session after hearing the story of Alec Smith, a 26-year-old uninsured Minneapolis man who died in 2017 of diabetic complications because he was rationing his insulin, the price of which has tripled in the past decade.

"Right now, there is no system, it's a total mess," said Democratic Sen. Matt Little, who convened talks involving lawmakers from both parties and the House and Senate to reach the deal. "Coupons or rebates won't save someone in an emergency and even with discounts the price of insulin is irrationally and unaffordably high."

The plan calls for providing a 20-day supply to people who have a past or current insulin prescription and who meet certain financial requirements. Depending on their circumstances, some could get an additional two month supply. The emergency medications would be available at most pharmacies, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported.

"It's far from perfect, but this deal will save lives," Little, of Lakeville, said in a statement. "And every day we fail to act, another young person might die without emergency access to insulin. All we've got left is to hammer out the funding mechanism and we could pass this in a special session."

Sen. Jim Abeler, an Anoka Republican who was in on the talks with Little and other lawmakers, told Minnesota Public Radio News that the announcement of a deal was "premature. What we don't agree on is the money source and how to make it sustainable, and those are not small matters."

Walz, who has said he is open to calling a special session to help diabetics who cannot afford the cost of insulin, repeated his support Monday for a fee on drugmakers for insulin assistance.

"As insulin prices skyrocket and pharmaceutical companies rake in profits, I am calling on Republicans to put the health and well-being of Minnesotans ahead of Big Pharma," the governor said in a statement.

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