ST. PAUL — Minnesota lawmakers say they are ready to strike a deal on an insulin assistance plan, potentially in as little as 30 days.
A new bipartisan work group of legislators and staff from the governor’s office will try to hammer out a compromise bill in the coming weeks that would give free insulin to patients with diabetes who cannot afford the lifesaving drug, which costs as much as $300 for a 10-day supply. If they reach an agreement, Democratic Gov. Tim Walz will call lawmakers back to the Capitol for a special legislative session.
With the creation of the work group, House-majority Democrats and Senate-majority Republicans have signaled they are ready to put months of disagreement behind them. The two parties agreed to merge their proposals last week, something they could not do before the legislative session adjourned in May.
The Democratic proposal would have pharmacies dispense free emergency insulin to qualifying diabetics who cannot afford a refill. The plan aims to deter diabetics from rationing their insulin, which can lead to a deadly condition called diabetic ketoacidosis.
Republicans have pitched a long-term assistance plan that they say would help diabetics avoid emergencies entirely. Eligible diabetics could work with their doctors to get free insulin for up to a year.
Diabetes advocates have said they prefer a compromise with the best parts of both proposals — long-term assistance with the emergency option as a safety net.
House Speaker Melissa Hortman, DFL-Brooklyn Park, and Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-Nisswa, wrote each other letters Monday, Oct. 21, urging quick action.
Hortman called on the work group to reach a compromise in 60 days. Gazelka proposed a shorter deadline of 30 days.
“You are correct that time is of the essence — lives are on the line, and there is no reason we should delay any longer,” Gazelka wrote. “Let’s get this done.”
Walz will call a special session “the moment the Legislature brings him a bipartisan bill that we all agree will make insulin affordable for Minnesotans,” said Teddy Tschann, the governor’s spokesman.
Work group members from the House include DFL Reps. Mike Howard and Tina Liebling and Republican Minority Leader Kurt Daudt. The Senate members include Republican Sens. Eric Pratt and Michelle Benson and DFL Sen. Melissa Wiklund.