Students hope emergency insulin program could serve as model for MN lawmakers

The Governor and state lawmakers are getting more pressure to pass an emergency insulin program for people who cannot afford the rising price of the drug. This time, it comes from a group of college senators.

State lawmakers say they’re close on everything but how to pay for it. Meanwhile, a group of college students who were part of what’s called the Summer Senate were able to pass their own program.

They gathered at the Capitol saying their bill could perhaps be a starting point or a model for state lawmakers.

The student senators’ plan is to pay for emergency insulin through the state’s health care access fund. That’s a partial option state lawmakers are looking at too. The students, however, say it has to get done.

“In our opinion, saving a life by providing emergency insulin should not only be a priority, but should receive strong bipartisan support,” said Sally Hazen, of Summer Senate. “But, we believe that partisanship and unwillingness by leadership to compromise killed that bill at the end and that is not acceptable to us.”

“So, we ask Governor Walz and legislators to act now,” said Hailey Tschetter, also of Summer Senate. “Call a special session and pass the Alec Smith emergency insulin program.  This cannot wait until 2020.  Let’s do this before anyone else dies because they did not have access to insulin.” 

Since the end of the regular session, a working group of state lawmakers have agreed on eligibility rules and a pharmacy distribution network, but not how to pay for it.

“The funding is an issue,” said Sen. Scott Jensen, of Chaska. “And I think that there has been demonstration from every voice that perhaps at some level a shared responsibility between pharmacy manufacturers who make big profits by selling insulin in this state would pony up. But, we also have the Access Fund that could potentially provide a stability to what we are doing.”

At this point, it all comes down to funding. Lawmakers say that has to be worked out by the leaders of the house and senate and the Governor before any special session can happen.