Senate DFLers continue to fight for insulin

The Senate Commerce Committee heard a bill this week that 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 bill is in response to the growing issues with insulin coverage and costs by health insurance. Often times, a person will be prescribed an insulin that works for them, only to find out at some point later that their insurance is no longer going to cover that particular insulin, even if it is the best fit for the individual. This can cause short- and long-term health issues for individuals that have to then either figure out how to pay for the now uncovered insulin or choose to switch insulin only to find out that the new insulin isn’t as effective or isn’t effective at all.

This is a strong bill that will help insulin-dependent consumers maintain their health. Unfortunately, the larger issue of insulin access is still being debated by the Legislature.

Senate Republicans have to this point refused to support a bill that would make manufacturers pay for the insulin crisis they’ve created, opting instead to force taxpayers to foot the bill.

DFL lawmakers have had a plan for an emergency insulin program and a longer-term affordable insulin assistance program ready since early 2019. The program would offer up to a three-month supply of insulin with a maximum copay of $30 to those who cannot afford the drug, and it would establish a longer-term assistance program for those who qualify. This would be paid for partially by the state but largely through a new fee on insulin manufacturers. And yet, Senate Republicans have continued to reject asking manufacturers to pay to support an emergency insulin access program in Minnesota.

A Republican version of an emergency insulin program was heard in the Health and Human Services Finance Committee this week. The bill creates an insulin safety net program with a two-tier track. Insulin-dependent consumers would be able to receive an immediate 90-day supply of insulin through their pharmacist, and manufacturers would be required to develop a patient assistance program for people who need long-term access to insulin.

However, the bill still has a number of problems. There is a $75 copay which is still unaffordable for many, the program sunsets in 2023 so manufacturers would have very little time to get it stood up, and the fines for manufacturers that don’t set up a program are so low as to be toothless.

The cost of insulin has tripled in the last 10 years, putting a burden on thousands of Minnesotans, while the three insulin manufacturers that control more than 90% of the U.S. market have been raking in record profits. In the 12 months from September 2018 to 2019, the three companies reported $84.1 billion in revenue and $18.5 billion in profits.

DFL lawmakers know urgent action must be taken to address the epidemic of patients rationing insulin because they cannot afford the life-sustaining drug. We have been working with our Republican colleagues and advocates since June to find compromise and have adopted several changes in order to find a swift, effective resolution. We are hopeful that as the bill moves forward that Senate DFLers are able to improve it in conference committee and establish a program, so no Minnesotan is forced to ration their insulin or go without. (SF 365)