The Senate passed their version of the Alec Smith Insulin Affordability Act bill last week, joining the House in advancing critical legislation to make sure those with diabetes can afford this life-saving drug. Conferees were appointed in the House and Senate this week, but the status of the conference committee is unknown.
The Senate DFL has been trying to pass an emergency insulin bill for over a year. We’re glad Senate Republicans have decided to respond to the crisis, but it is disappointing their insulin bill comes a year after the Senate DFL introduced the Alec Smith Emergency Insulin Act. There was no reason for Republicans delay acting on this crisis. The shortcomings of the Republican-led plan must be addressed in conference committee, so we can pass the Alec Smith Insulin Affordability Act in 2020.
Although the Senate Republican insulin legislation puts the responsibility for supplying insulin onto the manufacturers and includes an emergency and longer-term program, it has a long way to go. Issues such as lowering the co-pay for an emergency supply, including strong accountability measures to ensure Big Pharma implements the program as they are required to do, and removing the unreasonable two-year sunset remain.
Senate Republicans were adamant during the floor debate about setting the co-pay for emergency insulin at $75 versus the lower House proposal of $30. We believe this amount is too high and is prohibitive for many people struggling to afford insulin right now.
Senate DFLers did improve the bill through amendments on the Senate floor; we successfully increased the amount providers would be penalized for non-compliance from an incredibly low fine of $100,000 a year to $100,000 a month, which would increase to $200,000 a month after six months of noncompliance. Even though this fine increase won’t ensure compliance, it will cost manufacturers more if they don’t comply which was a vast improvement to the bill.
The Senate Republicans insisted on a “sunset” sunset for the program, effectively canceling it in two and a half years. The sunset in the Republican insulin bill suggests that the problem of outrageous insulin prices will go away in less than three years, but a two and a half-year program does little to address the life-long problem of insulin affordability for diabetics. Senate DFLers are committed to removing the sunset clause during negotiations in conference committee.
The Senate DFL will fight to bring the final, negotiated bill’s language as close to the House version as possible to ensure insulin is affordable and accessible for all Minnesotans with diabetes. (HF 3100/SF 3164)