SAINT PAUL, Minn. – Minnesota House DFL lawmakers today announced plans for a series of Community Conversations across the state to give Minnesotans an opportunity to share their concerns and ideas for improving access to insulin and addressing the skyrocketing cost of prescription drugs. The first roundtable is scheduled for Wednesday, August 14 at 10:30 a.m. in Room 120 of the State Capitol. Minnesotans who depend on insulin for themselves and their families and have experienced high costs are invited to join legislators to discuss the next steps to solve this crisis facing far too many Minnesotans.
“Minnesotans shouldn’t lose their lives because they can’t afford the lifesaving medications they need, like insulin,” said Speaker of the House Melissa Hortman. “The DFL Majority in the Minnesota House passed and sent to conference committee a strong proposal that would both help Minnesotans and hold the pharmaceutical industry accountable for the greed that is fueling this crisis. After the work of a bipartisan group of legislators, it’s critical to bring the public back into this process. We need to hear directly from Minnesotans about how this issue affects them and how best to address it.”
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. During the last legislative session, the DFL-led Minnesota House passed the Alec Smith Emergency Insulin Act as part of the House Health and Human Services Omnibus Bill. Named for a Richfield resident who tragically died after being forced to ration his insulin due to the high cost of the drug, the bill would establish an emergency supply of insulin for diabetics who are unable to pay for prescription refills. Reimbursements for pharmacies would be paid through a fee on insulin manufacturers.
“People with diabetes depend on insulin to live. They struggle every day to manage their disease, yet manufacturers have raised prices to the point that some people are forced to ration. This is unconscionable and has led to tragic consequences,” said Rep. Tina Liebling (DFL – Rochester), the chair of the House Health and Human Services Finance Division. “All Minnesotans deserve life-sustaining health care, but high costs put this out of reach for too many of us. We hope to learn from the experiences of these Minnesotans and find solutions that work for them.”
After the legislative session adjourned, a bipartisan group of legislators from the House and Senate began meeting to discuss emergency access to insulin. Although some consensus was reached on the framework of an insulin assistance program, Republicans insist that it be funded by taxpayers rather than impose a fee on insulin manufacturers who are profiting from soaring prices.
“Across our state, Minnesotans are faced with impossible choices because they cannot afford the crushing cost of the insulin they need to survive,” said Rep. Michael Howard (DFL – Richfield), author of the Alec Smith Emergency Insulin Act. “We are calling on Minnesotans to share their powerful stories so that we can work together and take bold action to address the unacceptable cost of prescription drugs.”
Later this summer and fall, House DFLers will hold additional Community Conversations to give more Minnesotans a direct opportunity to join the discussion over insulin price and access. Details for each event will be announced after they are finalized.
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.