ST. PAUL — Years after their son Alec died after rationing insulin and after months of lobbying at the Legislature, Nicole Smith-Holt and James Holt broke down in tears in the state Senate gallery on Tuesday, April 14, as lawmakers approved the Alec Smith Insulin Affordability Act.
365体育投注On a vote of 111-22 in the Minnesota House of Representatives and a unanimous vote in the Senate, the measure passed and was sent on its way to Gov. Tim Walz's desk for his signature. Under the bill, insulin manufacturers will be required to provide insulin supplies for uninsured Minnesotans and low-income individuals and those with high-deductible insurance policies. And the companies will have to expand access around their insulin assistance programs or face state penalties.
365体育投注In 2017, Alec Smith died after rationing his insulin because he'd been removed from his mother's insurance and wasn't able to afford the hormone on his own. His story fueled a push from Smith-Holt and other affordable insulin access advocates to change the law in Minnesota.
365体育投注For months, Smith-Holt told her story in committee hearings, news conferences and on social media. A similar measure nearly passed last year, but it became stuck in a partisan disagreement that held it hostage until a bipartisan group of lawmakers agreed to compromises and were able to strike an accord that could get the bill through the divided Legislature.
365体育投注"I think Alec was telling me not to stop, that it will happen," Smith-Holt said Tuesday afternoon. "It's been a journey. We've been fighting, we've been coming here to the Capitol and going to committee hearings and telling Alec's story for well over a year, closer to a year and a half. Today feels like we're actually going to have a touchdown."
365体育投注Rep. Michael Howard, D-Richfield, authored the bill and on the House floor, he talked about the kitchen table discussions with Holt and Smith-Holt that got the proposal started. He said the measure would help ensure Minnesotans could gain access to the hormone, no matter their financial status.
“For Type 1 diabetics, insulin is like water. And they are literally being priced out of their lives,” Howard said. "What this bill says to Minnesotans is if you need insulin ... you can get it in Minnesota at a price you can afford."
365体育投注Sen. Scott Jensen, R-Chaska, helped rewrite the bill to win over Republicans who'd opposed a prior plan because it required insulin manufacturers to pay a fee to fund an insulin access program run by the state. He said the version that passed Tuesday accomplished what the proponents wanted without risking a lawsuit from the pharmaceutical companies.
"Today is for Minnesota. It really is. They sent a clear message: Stop the gridlock, stop the partisanship, get it done," Jensen said. "It's been a 15-month project, but really it's been a lot longer than that."
Republican lawmakers in the Minnesota House of Representatives who voted against the proposal said it was not needed as the insulin companies were already providing the insulin supplies through their insulin access programs.
"It really means that this bill is unnecessary, that Minnesotans have access to all these programs already," House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, said. Drug manufacturers' advocacy group PhRMA has voiced similar concerns about the program and took issue with whether it was constitutional for a state to require a company to supply its product for free.
365体育投注Smith-Holt and others said the insulin companies' programs had allowed Minnesotans with diabetes to fall through the cracks.
Smith-Holt said that while her advocacy efforts at the Capitol may have come to an end, she hopes to help other states approve similar insulin access legislation. And she said she'll work with Minnesota's congressional delegation to approve similar measures at the federal level.