ST PAUL, Minn. — Day one of the legislative session and people who want lower insulin prices wasted no time in having their voices heard.
Members of #Insulin4All gathered at the capitol to share their stories of loved ones who died rationing their insulin.
“We are the parents of the late Alec Smith and yes, we are unfortunately back here again,” mother Nicole Smith-Holt says.
The bill named in her son’s honor, the Alec Smith Emergency Insulin Bill, never made it through the senate last session.
Holt and many others are back at the capitol to encourage lawmakers to get a deal done.
"We need to set up a program quickly, because time is of the essence," house democrat Michael Howard said during a committee meeting Tuesday afternoon.
Howard is the lead author of the bill and says it would create an emergency supply of insulin for diabetics.
Under this proposal, state tax dollars would pay for a small portion of the program and insulin manufacturers would be on the hook for the rest.
Right now, Holt is supporting this bill, because she argues it holds the drug companies responsible.
"The bottom line is pharma created this problem. They need to fix the problem. They need to be held accountable for the lives they have lost," Holt says.
That bill was heard in the commerce committee on Tuesday.
It has a few other stops before hitting the house floor.
Meanwhile, senate republicans are working on an alternative bill that's mostly funded by the state and through various health funds, because the argument is fees or penalties on the drug companies would only increase the cost of insulin long term.
Senator Eric Pratt is the lead author of this bill.
Under this bill patients would be able to get a 30-day supply of insulin at their pharmacy by paying a $75 copay.
This emergency supply would be available once a year to Minnesota residents, as part of a short-term emergency stopgap.
The bill would also require drug companies to provide insulin for free to Minnesota doctors on behalf of their eligible patients.
Holt said she hasn’t had enough time to read the full language of this new republican bill, but she says any bill that doesn’t hold pharmaceutical companies responsible misses the point of their movement.
Top democrats said they are hoping to send a bill to the house floor within a few weeks.
Republican leaders say their bill will be heard in its first committee meeting on Thursday.
So, both bills are moving forward, but eventually they'll have to choose one of them or create some sort of compromise.