Insulin program left out of final Minnesota budget bills

In the rush to prepare the bills on time, a provision creating an emergency insulin program was among the casualties of the final budget bills prepared for a special session at the Minnesota Capitol. Versions of the measure, which would’ve allowed diabetics to get access to insulin even if they couldn’t pay for it, was included in both the House and Senate budgets, but was left out of the final deal.

Senate Republicans expressed little interest in getting the insulin program back in the state’s health and human services budget bill Thursday afternoon.

When confronted at the Capitol by Kim Munson of Lakeville, whose daughter has Type 1 diabetes, Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka said the legislation was “locked up.”

“Eventually you have to say, everyone, we have to wrap up because we’re trying to finish all the bills everywhere by Friday,” Gazelka said as Munson recorded his comments with her phone. “There’s always stuff that somebody wants that we need to get done but has to wait.”

The health and human services bill, like seven other budget-related measures, were negotiated in private between Walz, House Speaker Melissa Hortman and Gazelka, with input from two conference committee chairs. Many deals were struck during late-night sessions with politicians running on little sleep.

The fate of the insulin program only came to light Thursday morning when the two chairwoman, Democratic state Rep. Tina Liebling and Republican state Sen. Michelle Benson, began arguing on Twitter.

“After show of concern for (people) who need insulin to live, Sen. Benson kills #Insulin4All in final hours of negotiation,” Liebling tweeted Thursday morning.

Benson fired back: “You gave us a spreadsheet without (the) insulin program on it. I didn't notice, even in the several back and forth offers. We all closed the spreadsheet.”

If it was a clerical error, state Sen. Matt Little, DFL-Lakeville, said lawmakers ought to be able to fix it quickly.

“This was a real shock,” Little said in an interview. “We thought this was done. It just has such broad bipartisan support. This is one of those no-brainers at the Capitol. It should be in there. Let’s get it back in."