Memo to state legislators: Minnesotans’ patience is wearing thin. After the 2019 legislative session ended in May, there was bipartisan agreement on the need to swiftly address the failure to pass an emergency insulin bill. The end of October now looms, and it’s still unclear when a special session will be called to make this lifesaving measure a reality.
Putting together health care legislation is always complicated. That said, there’s been more than enough time to put together a bill that Republicans, Democrats and the state’s energetic insulin advocates can support — a critical condition for Gov. Tim Walz to call a special session.
A lot of legwork has already been done by members of both parties, who came together in an informal work group last summer to find solutions. So it’s not unreasonable to expect a finalized bill before lawmakers sit down for Thanksgiving dinner.
Walz vowed again this week to call a special session virtually the moment a bill is ready to go. Getting it to him before Thanksgiving would ensure there’s ample time for lawmakers to get back to St. Paul during the busy weeks before Christmas.
This shouldn’t wait until after New Year’s. This is a bill that will get potentially lifesaving medication to Minnesotans who have diabetes but struggle to afford insulin. Between 5,000 to 10,000 Minnesotans may need this assistance. Two young men have already died after rationing insulin.
Putting off a legislative fix until January could also sap some of the legislation’s momentum. The regular session convenes in early February, and some may argue for adding insulin assistance to an already crowded 2020 agenda, pushing back passage even further. Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-Nisswa, merits praise for calling this week to complete work on the bill in 30 days.
A new bipartisan work group, consisting of three members each from the Minnesota House and Senate, is expected to meet Friday to find a compromise between competing DFL and Republican bills. The group’s members should build on the bipartisan groundwork done last summer. There’s no need to start over. They should also work with insulin advocates ahead of time to get a real-world understanding of how difficult it is to afford this medication and how quickly life can be imperiled without it.
The insulin bill and special session is a timely chance to remind Minnesotans that lawmakers can put aside their differences and come together for the common good. Don’t blow it.