ST. PAUL — A day after legislators overwhelmingly approved Minnesota's long-awaited insulin affordability legislation, Gov. Tim Walz has signed the bill into law.
In a Wednesday, April 15 ceremony conducted via video conference, activists and lawmakers were beaming into their webcams as the Alec Smith Insulin Affordability Act was signed into law. During what he called a dark period, as the state continues to fend off the COVID-19 pandemic, Walz said the passage of the bill is a "bright spot."
"This was truly a celebration of good policy, a celebration of grassroots activism and democracy, a celebration of incredible state craft to continue to work together and find compromises that work for everybody," Walz said.
Under the bill, insulin manufacturers will be required to provide insulin supplies for uninsured and low-income Minnesotans, as well as those with high-deductible insurance policies. Manufacturers will also have to expand access to their insulin assistance programs, and if they don't comply with the law, they will face state penalties. The bill goes into effect July 1.
Minnesota state Rep. Michael Howard, D-Richfield, the primary author of the bill, said the bill is a victory in activists' continuing battle, which he hopes to see resonate throughout the country.
"Big pharma is perhaps the strongest lobbying force in all of our politics, and a mighty few stood up to them and delivered this victory to Minnesotans," Howard said. "It is a true David versus Goliath story and today, David won."
The bill is named after Alec Smith, a 26-year-old Minnesotan who died in 2017 after rationing his unaffordable insulin. Smith's parents, Nicole Smith-Holt and James Holt, have been lobbying the Minnesota Capitol for months to pass their son's namesake bill. On Tuesday, they broke down in tears as they watched lawmakers pass the bill by a 111-22 in the House and a unanimous vote in the Senate.
On Wednesday's virtual bill signing, Smith-Holt said she "truly believe(s) that Alec was watching and working some magic to make this happen."
Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan said that the advocates and lawmakers spearheading the bill were "up against some pretty strong odds": Insulin manufacturers opposed it, even alleging in February that it was unconstitutional.
"What is stronger than all of those powerful lobbyists and companies is a friend’s concern, a legislator's determination and above all else, a mother’s love," Flanagan said. "That is what got this thing done."