Gov. Walz: Special session possible if lawmakers make emergency insulin deal

Image 1 of 3

(Office of the Governor)

Gov. Tim Walz continued his push for an emergency insulin bill Wednesday, holding a roundtable discussion to hear from people with diabetes who rely on the medication.

Walz told the roundtable that he is willing to call a special session if lawmakers can agree on a bipartisan bill. Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan joined the Governor, insulin advocates and medical professionals during the roundtable.

“No one should be forced to go without lifesaving drugs, especially something as common and as necessary as insulin,” said Governor Walz. “This is an urgent and important conversation to continue beyond today, and I am committed to elevating the stories of Minnesotans with diabetes and the struggles they face in getting necessary care.”

The House passed its version of the bill during the session, but the Senate ran out of time. 

Making insulin affordable was one of the priorities that was left on the cutting room floor as lawmakers scrambled to agree on spending priorities this spring.

Still, many of them are committed to making emergency insulin available.

Lawmakers have asked the Governor to call another special session to pass the Alec Smith Emergency Insulin Bill, named after the young man who died trying to ration his insulin due to the high costs.

“The cost of insulin and other lifesaving drugs has skyrocketed, putting the lives of Minnesotans on the line,” said Lieutenant Governor Flanagan. “For too long, people have had to choose between their health and their housing, their food, or other necessities, with devastating consequences. We must work together to find a solution to this crisis.”

"My younger brother was diagnosed in 1996, I was diagnosed in 1999. Back then, a vial, this vial of insulin, would cost around $16 to 20 dollars. The vial of insulin has not changed, there’s nothing new that has come out. But now, twenty years later, this vial of insulin is anywhere from $300 dollars to $400 dollars,” said Quinn Nystrom, Chapter Leader of Minnesota Insulin for All. “This is my life support. This is not an optional medication. This is not Tylenol. This is not 'I can do this every other day.' That's not an option for people with diabetes. That's something we need to be very clear on here. If I don't have this, I'm dead.”

The bill would allow diabetics with little or no health insurance to get an emergency supply on insulin for free. The medication would be paid for by a fee on drug companies.  

“Part of how we got into this mess is the whole rebate system. The drug company sells their drug, insulin in this case, to a distributor who then sends it to the pharmacy,” said Dr. David Tridgell, an endocrinologist with Park Nicollet Clinic. “But what’s happened is in part, in order to get drugs covered by a certain formulary, the drug company pays a rebate and so if you want to get your insulin paid for, people having been raising, and raising, and raising the list price because then the for-profit insurance companies and PBMs, then they get a rebate.”

Roundtable participants included Nystrom, Dr. Tridgell, Executive Director of the Minnesota Board of Pharmacy Cody Wiberg, RN and diabetes educator Marcia Meier, insulin advocates Lija Greenseid and Abigail Hansmeyer, and James Holt and Nicole Smith-Holt, insulin advocates and parents of Alec Smith, a 26-year old Minnesotan who died in 2017 because he could not afford the insulin necessary to treat his diabetes.