Insulin affordability passes Senate, work remains

The cost of insulin has tripled in the last 10 years, and three insulin manufacturers control over 90% of the insulin market in the United States. In the last 12 months, those three companies have reported $84.1 billion in revenue and $18.5 billion in profits.

We passed legislation this week that creates an emergency insulin program and requires manufacturers to make or maintain patient assistance programs for ongoing support. Senate DFLers understand that although the bill was not perfect, it was a step in the right direction and voted to send the bill into conference committee.

We were successful in amending the legislation to make some small, but significant, changes to the bill. First, we changed the name of the bill to the Alec Smith Insulin Affordability Act. This is to recognize Alec Smith, a Minnesotan who died in 2017 at the age of 26 when he could not afford his insulin. Alec’s story has sparked a dialogue in Minnesota, putting a spotlight on the skyrocketing cost of insulin. Studies indicate that one in four of those with diabetes have resorted to rationing their insulin due to the lack of access to affordable insulin.

Another amendment that was added increases the fine manufactures would pay for non-participation. The bill Republicans brought forth this week didn’t hold manufacturers accountable with an incredibly low fine of $100,000 a year for not participating in the program. Senate DFLers were able to successfully increase that fine to $100,000 a month and after six months the fine would increase to $200,000 a month. Even though this fine increase won’t ensure compliance, it made a vast improvement to the bill.

One problem we couldn’t fix is the high copay of $75 for a 30-day supply of emergency insulin. Senate DFLers tried to amend the bill to bring the copay down to $25, but the amendment failed to pass. We are hopeful the copays will come down once the bill is in conference committee with the House.

We also did not remove the unreasonable three-year sunset on the bill. The sunset suggests that the problem of outrageous insulin prices will go away in less than three years. A two and a half-year program does little to address the life-long problem of insulin affordability for those with diabetes. The Alec Smith Insulin Affordability Act we passed this week is a significant first step. We’re glad Senate Republicans have finally decided to work towards a solution, but it is disappointing their insulin affordability bill comes more than a year since the Senate DFL first introduced the Alec Smith Emergency Insulin Plan. (HF 3100/SF 3164)