From day one, the sole intent of Minnesota diabetics and their parents and caregivers to create an emergency insulin access fund is to save lives and protect the health of the state’s insulin-dependent diabetics. That intent is grounded in the fact that an exorbitant increase in the price of insulin over the last decade is literally killing diabetics in Minnesota, especially those who have no insurance and are not protected by any of the existing social safety nets, while forcing others to dangerously ration their insulin.
For that reason, it was surprising to read State Sen. Eric Pratt’s quote in your Feb. 5 story that the lack of a legislative deal to create an emergency access fund was due to insulin advocates’ and others’ “desire to punish the manufacturers” by requiring them to pay a fee to help establish the fund. Nothing could be further from the truth.
There is a significant difference between punishing someone or something and simply asking them to do what’s right and pay their fair share. There was bipartisan support in the Minnesota legislature to assess a fee on opioid manufacturers for the costs Minnesotans and Minnesota incurred for that industry’s actions. Asking insulin manufacturers to pay a small tax to help offset the damage they are causing to the lives and health of Minnesotans due to their exorbitant price increases should also result in bipartisan support.
Are diabetics and their family members happy with the price increases by the three insulin manufacturers? Absolutely not. Do we think it’s OK to triple the price of insulin over the last decade simply because they have the monopolistic power to do so? No we do not. Are we angry that some Minnesotans have died due to the high cost of insulin? Of course we are — any human being should be.
But those facts, while contributing to the insulin crisis in Minnesota, are not what’s truly central to this debate. It’s about fairness when it comes to the treatment of Minnesotans. It’s about preventing other people from suffering and dying in the future.
Is it fair to give the companies that have created this crisis a pass on being part of the solution in creating an emergency insulin access fund, instead asking the state’s economically disadvantaged to do so by taking the money for the creation of the fund solely out of the Minnesota Health Care Access Fund? Is it fair to put the interests of out-of-state insulin manufacturers over those of vulnerable Minnesotans?
With all due respect to Sen. Pratt, what’s really at play here is the power of the insulin lobby and its dollars. Insulin manufacturers and pharma currently employ a staggering number of lobbyists in Minnesota (19 at last count) including the former political aide to one of the Republican legislators who participated in the unsuccessful negotiations to create the emergency insulin fund.
The reason negotiations to create an emergency insulin access fund fell apart is the same reason that the language creating the fund “disappeared” due to an “editing error” at the end of the last legislative session. It’s the power and influence of the pharmaceutical industry.
It’s time for the Minnesota Senate to join with the House of Representatives and the governor and create an emergency access fund to help save the lives and protect the health of Minnesota’s insulin-dependent diabetics. Asking insulin manufacturers to pay a nearly microscopic percentage of their profits to help pay for that fund is not only reasonable, it’s fair.
Kim Munson is a mother to an 8-year-old with type one diabetes. When she realized how quickly the price of insulin increases without reason, she knew she needed to join the fight to ensure no more people with diabetes are priced out of their life support. Nicole Smith-Holt is the mother of the late Alec Smith, who died in June 2017 from rationing his insulin. Since Alec’s death Nicole has been an advocate at the state and federal level for affordable and accessible insulin4all. Nicole is the charity ambassador for T1International. The following members of the MN#insulin4all Leadership Team also contributed to this commentary: Rob Kilbourn, Shari Wiltrout, Abigail Hansmeyer, Nathan Loewy, and Alexis Stanley.
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