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Minnesota lawmakers work on emergency insulin bill, disagree on how to fund it

There's hope an insulin bill can pass sooner than later.

There appears to be some movement on a bill to increase access to emergency insulin for diabetes sufferers, after earlier efforts to pass it during the 2019 legislative session failed.

On Monday morning, Sen. Matt Little (DFL-Lakeville) announced that Democrats and Republicans in the Minnesota House and Senate have been negotiating a bipartisan deal that could pass in the event of a special session prior to the 2020 legislative season.

Little says the plan would give patients access to a 20-day supply of insulin if they meet financial requirements, and if they're still struggling to afford their supply at the end of that period, they could extend it for up to 2 months.

While Sen. Little says the "framework" of the program has been agreed, where DFLers and GOPers are disagreeing are how to fund it.

Democrats believe the funding should come directly a levy on insulin manufacturers, which is supported by among others Gov. Tim Walz, who said that Big Pharma "rakes in profits" as insulin prices "sky-rocket."

Nonetheless, Gov. Walz dampened down expectations of an imminent deal, accusing some lawmakers of "grandstanding" by suggesting a deal had been struck.

Rather than imposing a fee on insulin manufacturers, Republicans prefer to take the money for the program from the existing health care access fund.

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The legislature failed to pass the Alec Smith Emergency Insulin Act, named after the 26-year-old man who died in 2017 while rationing insulin he couldn't afford, after apparent clerical errors at the end of the session.

Of the proposed emergency insulin program under discussion, Sen. Little said it's "far from perfect" but "will save lives."

"We know it's not enough," he said in a press release. "It doesn't bring down the outrageously high price of insulin or guarantee an affordable, permanent supply for everyone who needs it.

"And we know that, but it will address the most dangerous situations, and hopefully give people the time they need to find more."

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