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

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Minnesota House Passes Alec Smith Insulin Affordability Act

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

St. Paul, MN - Today, the Minnesota House of Representatives passed the conference committee report on the Alec Smith Insulin Affordability Act. The legislation establishes an emergency insulin program for the Minnesotans who need it most, with insulin manufacturers financially participating in the solution. Alec’s Bill passed on a vote of 111-22.  

“Minnesotans should not lose their lives because they can’t afford the insulin they need to survive,” said House Speaker Melissa Hortman. “Thanks to the advocacy of thousands of Minnesotans, and to Representative Michael Howard's dedicated leadership, this legislation is on its way to the Governor's desk. The Alec Smith Insulin Affordability Act will provide emergency access, long-term affordability, require insulin manufacturers to be part of the solution, and is ready to implement right now.”

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 incredibly 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.

“Thank you to Nicole Smith-Holt, James Holt, and all the advocates who have contributed to this cause,” said Majority Leader Ryan Winkler. “Sharing their pain made this legislation possible, and all of us who are parents of diabetics are in their debt. House DFLers will continue our efforts to address the high prices of prescription drugs and to hold the pharmaceutical companies accountable.”

The Alec Smith Insulin Affordability Act will ensure that Minnesota’s diabetics, who cannot afford their insulin and are facing an emergency need, can access a 30-day supply at their pharmacy for a co-pay of $35. Eligible Minnesotans include those who are uninsured, under-insured, receiving Medicare, and who do not have access to low co-pays. The legislation also streamlines the process by which Minnesotans can access affordable insulin in the long-term. Insulin manufacturers would participate in the program and could be fined up to $3.6 million a year, doubling in the second year, for non-compliance. 

“The fight for affordable insulin shows us the immense power that comes from leading with our humanity and engaging in this fight together,” said Rep. Michael Howard (DFL - Richfield), author of the Alec Smith Insulin Affordability Act. “Despite stiff opposition and deep pockets from those intent on preserving the status quo, a mighty few banded together and became an unstoppable force for good in this world. Thank you to the insulin advocates that have delivered a victory for the people of Minnesota that will save lives.” 

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 legislation can be found here. A video recording of today’s floor debate can be found here. The legislation is now expected to pass in the Minnesota Senate and be subsequently signed into law by Governor Walz.  

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