House Dems tweak plan to provide relief to patients who need insulin in Minnesota

The battle of the emergency insulin plans took another step at the state capitol on Thursday. The DFL-controlled House modified its bill designed to immediately get insulin into the hands of diabetics.

It comes after the Senate unveiled its own plan this week that tries to prevent those with type one diabetes from falling into an emergency need for insulin.

"We are here because the price of hits vial of insulin is skyrocketing," said Rep. Mike Howard.

The one thing both House and Senate lawmakers now agree upon is that insulin affordability is a crisis and they both want insulin manufacturers to pay. That’s where the agreement ends. At a House hearing Thursday, the latest version of the Alec Smith Emergency Insulin Act was under review.

The modified bill by Representative Mike Howard allows diabetics to fill out an eligibility form and bring it to a pharmacist for an emergency 30-day supply of insulin. It sets income eligibility at 600 percent of the poverty level.

It also requires the Human Services Commissioner to connect these patients with county social service agencies for long-term insulin coverage. The Senate version by Senator Eric Pratt requires patients to enroll in an insulin plan through MNsure to verify eligibility.

They would be eligible for receiving a 120-day supply of insulin, but only after seeing a doctor. The idea is to establish a doctor-patient relationship so diabetics don’t fall into another crisis. Diabetic advocates say Senator Pratt’s bill doesn’t go far enough.

“Well again, people would absolutely use the Pratt version," said Quinn Nystrom of Minnesota Insulin 4 All. "But, there is absolutely a need to have the Alex Smith Emergency Insulin bill because people are in need with it in that 24 hours."

And mothers who’ve lost sons after they rationed their insulin say diabetics simply need that instant access.

"We need the bill passed so that people can get prescriptions filled on an emergency basis, and we need drugmakers to pay for it," demanded mother Cindy Scherer.

The House and Senate are closer but still far apart. Senator Michele Bensen issued a statement saying: "Now would be a good time for the governor to engage with policymakers if he wants to have a special session."

The governor’s spokesman Teddy Tschann says Governor Walz is encouraged both sides are talking about their plans. He says: "He is eager for them to reach an agreement so he can call a special session and finally provide relief for Minnesotans who can’t afford this life-saving drug."