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Minnesota Legislature

Legislative News and Views - Rep. Hunter Cantrell (DFL)

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We can improve healthcare when we focus on people, not special interests

Friday, September 20, 2019

Big Pharma profits have skyrocketed in recent years at the expense of people whose only options are to pay the prohibitive costs of medication or risk their lives by going without. The Minnesota Legislature must find a way to lift the burden from the shoulders of Minnesotans who have paid these prices for too long.

I’ve seen how the pharmaceutical industry’s power and price manipulation can devastate families when they need care. I’m here today because my parents’ insurance shielded me from what would have been a $500,000 bill when I was being treated for Hodgkin's Lymphoma in 2017. 

That’s why I’ve been fighting to stand up to the pharmaceutical industry, and fighting for lower costs of prescription drugs. I co-sponsored a bill we passed into law demanding transparency from Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBMs). I was the chief author of a measure to protect people with pre-existing conditions, though it has not yet become law. And I led on a bill to prohibit healthcare companies from switching prescriptions in the middle of care, which can cause destabilizing side-effects for patients. 

We’ve recently come to an impasse with Senate Republican leaders on a bill named for Alec Smith, who died when he lost his parents’ insurance at the age of 26 and could no longer afford the insulin that kept him alive. An emergency supply of insulin created by this bill would help Minnesotans when they’re in desperate need of insulin but can’t afford it. So why wait?

The stalemate represents exactly what Minnesotans are frustrated with: big headlines and good intentions that hit a dead end when special interests throw their weight around to kill legislation that will improve peoples’ lives. 

The House version of the Alec Smith Emergency Insulin Act would ask insulin companies to pay for the emergency supply of insulin in light of outrageous price hikes on all pharmaceuticals, insulin included. While Senate Republicans have agreed to support the idea, they argue taxpayers should cover the costs. 

Big Pharma has profited off of sick people for too long, raising the price of insulin, a drug that’s been around for more than a century, nearly 600% since 2005 while offering minimal improvement on the product. This shouldn’t be a partisan issue. 

These drug companies can afford this program to save lives, but they don’t want to. I ask for courage from my colleagues to stand up for patients and against the pharmaceutical lobbyists knocking at their doors. 

Minnesotans should always be able to afford life’s necessities. For too many, that includes insulin and prescription drugs. I’m fighting to make sure health care is always within reach for those who need it, and I ask my Senate colleagues to join me. 

On September 16, Rep. Cantrell participated in a town hall in Burnsville focused on addressing the rising cost of insulin and prescription drugs. Additional meetings held by House DFL members are scheduled in Richfield, Saint Cloud, and Shorewood.

 

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