Gov. Walz, lawmakers agree to work on insulin

Published 3:57 pm Monday, October 21, 2019

By Tim Pugmire

MPR News/90.1

Minnesota lawmakers still don’t have a deal on a bill to help people who can’t afford insulin, but they agreed Friday to keep talking.

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A day after DFL Gov. Tim Walz criticized Senate Republicans for inaction, he met privately with the House and Senate authors of competing insulin proposals, Rep. Mike Howard, DFL-Richfield, and Sen. Eric Pratt, R-Prior Lake.

They offered few specifics afterward but said there is agreement on moving forward together to try to reach a compromise that could be passed in a special session.

Walz was upbeat.

“There’s no daylight between us on doing what’s right for Minnesota,” Walz said.

The House passed an emergency insulin measure last session, but the issue remained unfinished when lawmakers went home. The Senate released a plan last month and interim hearings were held on both versions.

“In some ways this has become a fresh start for us to work together, as we take two concepts that are very, very different and try to find areas that we can agree upon,” Pratt said.

Howard said they agreed on several key concepts, including the establishment of an emergency insulin program, which is the focus of the House bill, and a long-term strategy for affordability and access, which is the focus of the Senate bill.

They also want drug companies to pay. The House proposal would charge the companies a fee, while the Senate plan would require them to provide free insulin.

“There is broad recognition that no one in Minnesota should lose their life because they cannot afford the insulin they need to survive,” Howard said. “I’m really pleased by the progress in this meeting today.”

Howard said there are plans to meet again next week. But it was unclear what the meeting would cover, who would participate and whether it would be held in public or private.

“We have broad agreement that there needs to be a public process as we move forward,” Howard said. “As we meet next week, I’m not sure we’ll be quite at that stage yet.”