Last week, my colleagues and I passed two long-awaited bills, an achievement that will help keep our communities safe, address the opioid crisis in our state, and make sure the pharmaceutical companies pay their fair share in fighting the epidemic.
The first bill (H.F. 400), will hold Big Pharma accountable for their role in creating the opioid crisis. In 2017, more than 400 Minnesotans died of opioid overdoses – nearly everyone in our community has been impacted, or knows someone who has struggled with addiction after treatment for a surgery or illness led down the path to opioid dependence. This bill would support a wide range of addiction prevention, education, intervention, treatment and recovery strategies that would be funded by the companies that have profited from the epidemic.
Big pharmaceutical companies have collected billions in profits over the years while taxpayers footed the bill for treatment. They have not yet had to pay a dime to help Minnesotans get treatment or help law enforcement keep our communities safe. This bill, if passed by the Senate, would change that.
The second bill we passed last week (H.F. 50) will reduce distracted driving on our roads. Rates of distracted driving have skyrocketed – it’s now a factor in one in every five car accidents. I’m honored to be a co-author of this bill, which would require drivers to put down their phones, and focus on the road. Minnesota is following the example of 16 other states which have reduced crashes and fatalities by passing similar legislation. Check out WCCO’s report.
The Open Door
Once a month at my alma mater, Hidden Valley Elementary, The Open Door provides food to help families and students struggling with food insecurity. It’s one of 20 mobile food pantry sites that serve more than 2,000 families in our community, and 80 percent of students at Hidden Valley struggle with food insecurity.
As the lead author on a bill to help support this program, I got the chance to see The Open Door in action last week. It was great to visit my old teachers and classrooms – even better to do so in support of legislation to address food insecurity and meet the needs of families who face financial challenges and mobility issues in putting healthy food on the table. You can read more about the program here.
Healthcare is one of the largest industries in our state, and it plays a huge role in all of our lives. The large companies that make up the industry and turn a profit off of our illnesses shouldn’t be able to operate in the dark. This week I’m continuing to gain traction on my billto require more transparency and cost-reducing measures from prescription drug companies. I presented it in the Health and Human Services committee on Tuesday and stood with victims of prescription price gouging to introduce a comprehensive plan to make prescription drugs more affordable and hold pharmaceutical companies accountable.
This week I also presented my bill to make sure that health plans are no longer able to cut coverage from patients with conditions like epilepsy, depression, and MS by changing or removing coverage for the drugs in the middle of the contract year. Not only does this often cause patients to switch to drugs that are more expensive while being locked in a contract, but it can be destabilizing enough to require hospital stays, which cost an average of $10,000. Yes – patients can be sent thousands of dollars into debt for a company to save a few cents. This legislation will help alleviate the uncertainty that many Minnesotans face when dealing with chronic health conditions that require complicated drug regimens.
Feel free to reach out to touch base, ask a question or bring an issue forward. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org and at 651-296-4212. It’s an honor to serve you and our community at the Capitol!