Minnesota House and Senate pass long-awaited insulin affordability legislation

After a year marked by frustration, delays and finger-pointing, lawmakers in the Minnesota House of Representatives and Senate passed a long-awaited deal on emergency insulin Tuesday, sending it to the governor for his approval.

The Senate passed the bill unanimously.

The House voted 111-22 to pass the Alec Smith Insulin Affordability Act, which establishes an emergency insulin program in the state. The legislation is named after Alec Smith, who passed away in 2017 at the age of 26 when he aged off of his parents’ health insurance and was forced to ration his insulin that he could no longer afford because he could no longer afford its high cost. 

After being frustrated by a year's worth of legislative delays, Smith-Holt watched the debate from the House gallery, which was mostly empty because of concerns about the coronavirus.

"I knew that eventually this would happen," she said afterward, fighting tears as she spoke with reporters. "A little voice in my heart -- I think Alec was telling me not to stop, that it will happen."

“Minnesotans should not lose their lives because they can’t afford the insulin they need to survive,” House Speaker Melissa Hortman said in a statement. 

“All Minnesotans will benefit from the passage of this ambitious bill designed to protect those who cannot access insulin,” said Senator Scott Jensen (R- Chaska), chief author of the bill, in a statement. “Today is a new day in Minnesota for diabetics and this legislation will serve as a springboard for more creative legislative ideas regarding other expensive, life-sustaining medications."

The Alec Smith Insulin Affordability Act will ensure that Minnesotans who cannot afford their insulin and are facing an emergency need can access a 30-day supply at their pharmacy for a $35 co-pay. Eligible Minnesotans for the program include those who are uninsured, under-insured, receiving Medicare and do not have access to low copays. 

Insulin manufacturers would participate in the program and could be fined up to $3.6 million a year, doubling in the second year, for non-compliance.