2020 Legislature opens with hearings on affordable emergency insulin, government shutdown

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Legislators old and new gathered at the Capitol on Feb. 11 for the start of the 2020 legislative session.

The first week was a busy one with legislative hearings on ways to improve emergency access to insulin and ensure furloughed state employees are paid following a government shutdown.

Local 601’s Jason Broberg, testified before the House Commerce Committee on Feb. 11 in support of HF 3100, an emergency insulin assistance program. Broberg was diagnosed three years ago with Type 1 Diabetes at age 40.

Photo below: (L-R) Jason Broberg and Nicole Smith-Holt testify in support of HF 3100, an emergency insulin assistance program.

Jason Broberg and Nicole Smith-Holt testify at insulin hearing

The Alec Smith bill is named in honor of MAPE member Nicole Smith-Holt’s son who died after rationing his insulin because he couldn’t afford his $1,300 monthly prescription.

Broberg, who also serves on MAPE’s Political Council, admits that as a MAPE member he has not had difficulty affording his insulin and other supplies. But that was not always the case.

“In my life I have also experienced both unemployment and high deductible health insurance plans which are just two of the variety of factors that can make insulin unaffordable for a diabetic,” Broberg testified. “Accordingly, I am aware my ability to afford life sustaining insulin is dependent on factors that, at the end of the day, diabetics like me cannot control.”

He continued, “Because of the immorally high cost of insulin and the barriers to obtaining it. If I lost my benefits today, I would be forced to ration insulin almost immediately and my remaining days on this planet would be instantly numbered. This legislation will provide a safety net, it will save lives.”

Since the last session, two Minnesotans have died because they could not get insulin.

Insulin costs have tripled in the past decade. Alec Smith’s mother, Nicole Smith-Holt, said insulin is the sixth-most expensive liquid in the world, with an estimated one in four diabetics rationing because they can’t afford it. “This bill should not take until the closing days of the session to pass,” she added.

H.F. 3100 was approved 12-7 by the Commerce Committee and will next go to the Health and Human Services Policy Committee.

On Feb. 13, MNDOT Local 801’s Kelly Christenson testified in favor of H.F. 1863 in the House State Government Policy and Finance Committee. The bill would ensure that state employees who are furloughed due to a state government shutdown receive salary, back pay and maintain their health insurance in the event of legislators not appropriating funds in the odd-numbered year of a biennium.

Photo below: (L-R) Local 801's Kelly Christenson meets with Representatives Mike Nelson and Leon Lillie and MAPE Public Affairs Coordinator Devin Bruce.

Kelly Christenson meets with Reps Nelson and Lillie and Devin Bruce about government shutdown bill

Christenson and thousands of other state employees were laid off during a 20-day government shutdown in July 2011. “The unease of not knowing when I would get paid or be able to go back to work to do my job caused me considerable stress and anxiety because there was literally nothing I could do to change the outcome,” Christenson said.

In the previous two shutdowns, state workers went without back pay and were in jeopardy of losing their health coverage. This bill will ensure that employees in the executive, judicial and legislative branches who return to work after the shutdown are made whole.   

Hearings this week:

Paid Family and Medical Leave, HF 5: Feb. 17, House Ways and Means, 9:45am

Alec Smith Emergency Insulin Bill, HF 3100: Feb. 17, State Government Finance, 4pm

MN State Bonding Request: Feb. 18, Senate Committee on Higher Education, 1pm

Blue Ribbon Commission on Information Technology: Feb. 19, State Government Finance, 8am