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Governor Walz signs insulin affordablity bill into law

During a pandemic, Minnesota became the first state to make sure no citizen would die, because they can't afford insulin.

MINNEAPOLIS — On Wednesday, the state of Minnesota made history by becoming the first state to pass a bill that allows people to get an emergency supply of insulin immediately even if they can’t afford it.

One of the biggest fighters for it was the family of Alec Smith – who died after rationing his insulin.

"Nicole turned her personal tragedy, a heartbreak as a parent, I can't even imagine and turned that into public advocacy to make sure no other family would have to go through that," Governor Tim Walz said. 

With nearly 2,000 people viewing on Facebook live, Gov. Walz signed into law the Alec Smith Affordability bill. After he signed, Walz held up a Sharpie pen Gov. Walz said.  

Nicole Smith-Holt was a force behind the law. It's named after her son, Alec.

He died after rationing his insulin in 2017 because he couldn't afford the life saving drug. He was 26.

“Alec was a type-one diabetic who required multiple injections of insulin a day to stay alive.When he aged off of my insurance, he was no longer able to afford his insulin,” Nicole Smith Holt said. “So, he began rationing it.”

Smith- Holt says the law is a safety net, offering access to low cost insulin in an emergency.

“The emergency portion of the bill is $35 for 30-day supply of insulin. The long-term program we have developed, somebody would pay $50 for 90-day supply,” she said. “Once they get out of that emergency situation, they can go into the long-term plan.”

She said it is a sign of hope for the future.

On the virtual bill signing, Lt. Governor Peggy Flanagan said, “A mother’s love got this thing done.”

That love led Smith-Holt to face her Goliath: Pharmaceutical companies.

Another supporter on the Facebook live bill signing said this is a classic David and Goliath story, adding "today, David won." 

In July 2019, she attended the funeral of Jesimya David Scherer-Radcliff. His family says he, too, died as a result of rationing his insulin.

On that day Smith-Holt had strong words.

“They were murdered. On their death certificates the cause of death should be corporate greed,” she said. “I want justice for all of their deaths.”

On Wednesday, she said the passing of this bill is the first step in seeking justice.

“It is just step one. My journey is not over. The end goal is to make insulin affordable and accessible for all,” Smith-Holt said. “We have not reached that goal yet. We have not lowered the list price in Minnesota, and ultimately that is how we will save the most lives.”

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