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Others’ opinion: Legislators need to get insulin bill quickly

The Free Press, Mankato
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

When state lawmakers return to the Capitol on Monday, they face the usual laundry list of pending legislation and the important task of putting together a bonding bill.

But one piece of business that’s been left undone for years needs to be a priority: getting life-saving insulin into the hands of diabetics at an affordable price.

In the past decade, the price of insulin has tripled. Some of the cost hike is because insulin is a biologic compound that can be difficult to make. And government regulations and pharmaceutical companies’ thirst for more profits have added more cost.

Regardless of the reasons, the dramatic price hikes leave many diabetics, particularly those without good insurance, unable to pay for insulin that can now cost them from hundreds of dollars a month to well over $1,000 a month. People paying $300 for a small vile of insulin here can get the same brand in Canada for $30.

Gov. Tim Walz and House Democrats and the GOP-led Senate have been meeting off and on about the issue, trading ideas and barbs, but still are not in agreement on how to lower insulin costs.

Both sides have given some in negotiations. Democrats added a GOP wish for a long-term program for state insulin assistance that would require aid applicants to show they are legal state residents. And Republicans added an emergency element so people can get the insulin they need more quickly.

But when it comes the core of the proposals — how to pay for reducing the cost to consumers — the two sides haven’t budged. Democrats want drug manufacturers pay a fee to help subsidize their plan as well as adding nearly $1 million in state funds.

Republicans want to use state money for the emergency program with drug companies supplying insulin for a long-term program.

It makes sense to us to fund a considerable part of the program with fees on the drug-makers who profit handsomely from the price hikes, while having the state subsidize part of the program.

Regardless of a final funding solution, lawmakers must get a bill approved early in the session. Minnesotans who couldn’t afford their insulin have died because of it. That’s unacceptable, as unacceptable as Minnesota lawmakers failing to find a solution by now.