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Lawmaker stands by Walmart insulin recommendation

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Two people speak at a press conference at the State Capitol.
Nicole Smith-Holt and James Holt discuss the cost of insulin and how their son, Alec Smith, died after rationing his medication on Jan. 22, 2019, at the Capitol in St. Paul. A bill to address the rising cost of insulin failed to become law last session.
Brian Bakst | MPR News

A Republican state legislator doubled down Wednesday on his contention that people with diabetes could use an older, cheaper version of insulin.

Rep. Jeremy Munson, R-Lake Crystal, has been widely criticized for posting a video in which he advocates the use of the cheaper insulin sold by Walmart. Munson is concerned that a DFL bill to establish an emergency insulin program could drive up the price of insulin for all patients.

During a House committee hearing on the bill, Munson repeated his claim about the cheaper insulin option.

“It came to my attention that the older style of insulin, human insulin, does work and can be used in an emergency,” Munson said.

While Munson is a Republican, he caucuses with a small splinter group that call themselves the New Republicans.

Rep. Laurie Halverson, DFL-Eagan, objected to Munson’s remarks. Halverson, who has Type-1 diabetes, said people have died making such a switch.

“To recommend this as a possible solution to Minnesotans is very uninformed at best,” Halverson said.

The legislation that was before the committee is a slightly revised version of the bill that failed to become law last session. It is called the Alec Smith Emergency Insulin Act in honor of a young man who could not afford his insulin prescription and died while trying to ration his supply.

The House plan would charge drug manufacturers an annual fee to pay for the program. A Senate Republican proposal released last week requires the companies to provide free insulin to doctors. Negotiations could begin soon to try to work out a compromise between the proposals.

Rep. Mike Howard, DFL-Richfield, said the House bill would reduce barriers and help patients get insulin faster in emergency situations.

“We’re here to push for the urgent need to pass the Alec Smith Emergency Insulin Act and make sure that no Minnesotan ever again loses their life because they can’t afford the insulin they need to survive,” Howard said. “This shouldn’t be a left or right issue, a red or blue issue. It’s a life or death issue.”