Insulin for all: creating pathways to practical care

DFL Senate and House members joined advocates, health care experts, and patients outside the Capitol and online for a Twitter townhall this week, to raise awareness around the critical need for improved access to insulin and other prescription drugs in Minnesota. Today, over 30 million Americans live with diabetes and over 7 million are dependent on insulin. Rapidly rising drug costs have had devastating effects across the nation. Between 2002 and 2013, the average price of insulin nearly tripled, forcing some people to risk their lives by needing to either cut back on or skip necessary doses completely. When an insulin dose is missed, people with diabetes are at significant risk for major complications such as kidney failure, heart disease, stroke, loss of eyesight, limb amputations, or death. To combat these unnecessary and unjust risks, DFL legislators have introduced five different bills in the Senate with bipartisan support.

One piece of legislation would provide stability to insulin-dependent consumers through the year with the type of insulin, equipment, and supplies their insurance will cover, while also requiring insurance companies to disclose what brands they cover upon request.

The Alec Smith Emergency Insulin Act establishes an emergency insulin program for the state and allows for more emergency prescription refills. The bill aims to get insulin into the hands of Minnesotans who need it but can’t afford it. It is named after Alec Smith, a young Minnesotan who died in 2017 due to insulin rationing.

Other bills introduced would direct the Commissioner of Human Services to set up a program to make discounted prescription drugs reimported from Canada available for purchase in the state, to increase Minnesotans’ access to cheaper prescription drugs prices, and prohibit the advertisement of prescription drugs in the state, which are often paid for by hiking drug costs. Additional legislation to require the Commissioner of Health to review insulin prices set by manufactures and establish a maximum reimbursement rate if the price has led or will lead to excessive costs in the state’s health care system has also been introduced.

Whether requiring companies to disclose more information to consumers, regulating costly advertising, or expanding emergency assistance options for those in need of insulin, DFL legislators are taking a stand against the high cost of prescription drugs by holding manufactures accountable, increasing health care transparency, and insuring that all Minnesotans have their basic health needs met. (SF 365, SF 472, SF 1184, SF 1182, SF 364)