Minnesota Governor Tim Walz signed the Alec Smith Insulin Affordability Act into law Wednesday to establish an emergency insulin program for struggling Minnesotans. Walz, who spent months advocating for and negotiating this bill, said that “[d]espite resistance from the pharmaceutical industry, the grit and determination of Minnesotans […] moved this bill forward.”
Walz’s virtual signing ceremony came the day after the Insulin Affordability Act was passed in the Minnesota House of Representatives by a vote of 111-22 followed by the Senate vote of 67-0. In 2019, an early version of the act was nearly passed, but ultimately failed due to opposition from the pharmaceutical industry and disputes over cost. Accordingly, the current bill is the result of weeks of negotiations between Senate Republicans and House Democrats.
The Alec Smith Insulin Affordability Act is named for 26-year-old Alec Smith, a Minnesotan who died after rationing his insulin in 2017. Smith was reportedly paying $1,300 per month for insulin and supplies. However, this is not an isolated incident: the price of insulin has tripled in the last decade, and one in four diabetics report rationing their insulin. Minnesota Representative Michael Howard, author of the act, stated that “[t]he fight for affordable insulin shows us the immense power that comes from leading with our humanity and engaging in this fight together.”
The bill will take effect on July 1, 2020, and will provide both emergency and long-term services for those that need insulin. The legislation establishes an “urgent need safety net program” that allows eligible individuals to receive a one-time, 30-day supply of insulin for a $35 co-pay. Manufacturers are then required to send the pharmacy a replacement or reimbursement for the insulin.
A second component of the bill requires manufacturers to provide eligible individuals with insulin in 90-day increments for a co-pay of no more than 50 percent. Additionally, the bill requires that the MNsure Board of Directors implement a public awareness campaign to inform individuals and manufacturers of the safety net program.