The difference between good leaders and great leaders comes down to results.
Those who have the best ideas need to be able to deliver solutions when faced with challenges. A great leader can quickly understand a critical problem and effectively work to correct it — even if that means admitting a mistake.
That’s worth keeping in mind as the insulin cost crisis continues to threaten lives and Minnesotans look to the State Capitol for help.
I have found Gov. Tim Walz and legislative leaders from both parties to be committed and capable elected officials, and they have offered several ideas for addressing the insulin challenge. So far, however, they have not provided great leadership.
In case you haven’t been following along, efforts to come up with emergency funding to provide help failed in the last hours of the 2019 legislative session. Trying to assign blame for that result would not be helpful in finding a path forward, but mistakes were made.
The specific bill that fell short, called the Alec Smith Emergency Insulin Act, was named after a 26-year-old diabetic from Richfield who aged off his mother’s insurance but earned too much to qualify for medical assistance. The young restaurant manager also couldn’t afford his own insurance or the $1,300 bill he received for his first month of insulin and supplies.
So Alec did what too many diabetics are being forced to do: He tried to ration the insulin he had until he could afford more. Alec died in 2017, and an autopsy found he suffered from a critical shortage of insulin. His death became a heartbreaking, worst-case example of what can happen when diabetics go without the treatment they need.
It’s not an isolated problem. An estimated 30.3 million Americans, or about 9.4%, have diabetes. To varying degrees, they’ve all felt the impact of rising costs. According to the Star Tribune Editorial Board, the average cost of insulin tripled from 2002 to 2012, and it has risen 64% since 2014.
The DFL-majority House version of the Alec Smith act would have required insulin manufacturers to fund emergency assistance, while the GOP-led Senate wants state taxpayers to cover the cost. A successful deal might require a contribution from both.
I served in the Republican minority in the Minnesota Senate for 10 years, and I had to negotiate with DFLers to get things done for our state. We identified our goals and often compromised while trying to achieve them. That spirit of bipartisan negotiation is needed on the insulin issue and others in St. Paul and Washington.
To their credit, Gov. Walz and leaders of both the House and Senate have expressed a willingness to find a solution that could be approved in a special session, while also promising to keep working on a broader plan to tackle rising pharmaceutical costs during the 2020 session.
That’s a hopeful sign. Now we need great leadership. Within 30 days, I suggest state leaders reach a compromise on emergency insulin funding and get this done: The lives of Minnesotans are at stake.