St. Paul, MN – “It’s far from perfect, but this deal will save lives,” Sen. Matt Little (D-Lakeville) commented while announcing a bipartisan framework to provide emergency insulin supplies to patients in extreme need, “And every day we fail to act, another young person might die without emergency access to insulin. All we’ve got left is to hammer out the funding mechanism and we could pass this in a special session.”
The agreement would provide statewide access to small quantities of insulin for emergency use, and link patients to services for long term access to the insulin they need. “Right now, there is no system, it’s a total mess,” Little notes, “Coupons or rebates won’t save someone in an emergency, and even with discounts the price of insulin is irrationally and unaffordably high.”
If put into law, the agreement would allow patients that meet certain financial requirements and have a past or current prescription for insulin to receive about a 20-day supply, to avoid the life-threatening consequences of insulin rationing. The emergency insulin program would be available at most pharmacies, and patients who meet the financial and medical qualifications could receive a stop-gap insulin supply for up to an additional two months.
“We know it’s not enough,” Sen. Little admitted, “It doesn’t bring down the outrageously high price of insulin or guarantee an affordable, permanent supply for everyone who needs it. And we know that but it will address the most dangerous situations, and hopefully give people the time they need to find more.”
Two funding sources are still under deliberation: a slight manufacturer fee favored by most DFLers, or taxpayer dollars from the health care access fund, favored by most in the GOP. “Of course, I think insulin manufacturers should pay for the program, since they created the problem. But our group has collected all the data, and had several productive discussions about funding.”
Sen. Little convened a broadly bipartisan group of legislators from both chambers after the end of the legislative session in May. The group has been conducting confidential meetings under an agreed set of rules, including no public comment or press coverage until an agreement was struck, the negations failed, or August 1st is reached. Sen. Little believes staying out of the public eye was key to the group’s success.
“I’m grateful to all my colleagues for working through these difficult issues, and their respect for the process. This was a complex problem, and we all needed a space without the pull of special interests or election concerns. Instead of focusing on politics, we focused on saving lives.”
Sen. Little’s bipartisan coalition, included: Sen. Melissa Wiklund (DFL), Sen. John Marty (DFL), Sen. Jim Abeler (GOP), Sen. Scott Jensen (GOP), Sen. Paul Anderson (GOP), Sen. Eric Pratt (GOP), Rep. Laurie Halverson (DFL), Rep. Alice Mann (DFL), Rep. Michael Howard (DFL), Rep. Kelly Morrison (DFL), Rep. Rod Hamilton (GOP).
“I want to give special thanks to Rep. Howard and Sen.Wiklund who championed this issue all through session, and never gave up. Their knowledge and skills were essential at every turn. And, most important, I want to thank Nicole Smith-Holt, her family, and all the tireless advocates who have practically lived at the Capitol to make sure young people don’t have to die because of insulin rationing.”
“This should have passed last session,” Sen. Little concluded, “A special session could pass it soon. People who are rationing insulin can’t wait. And they shouldn’t have to wait for next session just because it’s more politically convenient for some legislators.”