There is a bright, young woman at Concordia University named Alexis Stanley. Certain fears are typical for a college student like Alexis: “Will I pass my chemistry midterm? Will I land that internship? What will I do after graduation?”
But Alexis fears something no young person should: her 26th birthday. She has Type 1 diabetes and that date marks the moment when she will no longer be covered under her parent’s health insurance. She fears what will happen if she is unable to afford the insulin she needs daily to stay alive.
Alexis’s story is one we hear too often throughout Minnesota. The cost of insulin has tripled in the last 10 years — leaving Minnesotans with diabetes scrambling to afford the drug they need to survive. Many are forced to ration their insulin to make it to the next paycheck or put food on the table for their family.
That is why we fought hard last session for “Alec’s Bill” to provide critical relief to Minnesotans struggling to afford insulin. The bill is named after a young diabetic from Minnesota whose story embodies Alexis’s fear. Alec tragically died rationing his insulin when he aged off his mother’s insurance and couldn’t afford the $1,300 monthly cost of insulin and diabetes supplies.
Alec’s Bill would place a small fee on insulin manufacturers to create an emergency insulin fund so diabetics can get an emergency dose of insulin. Centered around patients, the bill would create a safety net to ensure Minnesotans can get the insulin they need at a price they can afford. The bill had broad bipartisan support in the Legislature last year, but died in the Republican-controlled Senate.
Since then, we have worked tirelessly to find a solution that Republicans are willing to support. We remain open to their ideas and eager for a bipartisan path forward. We even improved Alec’s bill by adding certain Republican proposals, including a program that would help Minnesotans afford insulin over the long-term. We have come close to reaching a deal.
But there’s one area where Republicans simply will not budge: holding pharmaceutical companies accountable. The only way we can provide relief to Minnesotans struggling to afford their insulin is if we call upon the companies who created this crisis to help fund the solution. The insulin manufacturers and the lobbyists from Big Pharma don’t like Alec’s Bill and are doing everything in their power stop it. They’d much rather have Minnesota taxpayers pick up the tab. Unfortunately, Republicans are right there with them.
Alec Smith lost his life at 26 years old — the exact age Alexis dreads turning. We cannot allow Alexis to fall to the same tragic fate. We need to act now. Lives are at stake. We will reintroduce Alec’s bill this session. We are ready to act immediately. Our bill now includes Republicans’ ideas, and we can begin implementing it immediately — but only if it passes the Republican-led Senate.
We ask Senate Republicans to do the right thing, let this common sense solution move forward, and provide much-needed relief to Minnesotans struggling to afford their insulin.
Tim Walz is governor of Minnesota. Melissa Hortman, DFL-Brooklyn Park, is speaker of the Minnesota House.