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Minnesota program will provide insulin to needy diabetics

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Minnesota diabetics who need emergency insulin supplies but can’t afford them will be able to get the drug starting Wednesday under a new state law.

The safety net program within the Alec Smith Insulin Affordability Act, which the Legislature passed in April, will allow qualifying diabetics with less than seven days worth of the lifesaving drug left to pay no more than $35 to get a one-time 30-day supply from their pharmacy.

The law is named for Alec Smith, an uninsured 26-year-old Minneapolis man who died in 2017 of complications from rationing his insulin — a common but dangerous strategy among those who lack sufficient coverage. He couldn’t afford the $1,300 per month he needed for the drug and test supplies after he aged off his mother’s insurance. His mother, Nicole Smith-Holt, was a leading campaigner to get the legislation passed.

To qualify for the urgent need program, diabetics must need an emergency refill to avoid the likelihood of suffering significant health consequences if they run out. They must meet income qualifications, be Minnesota residents and have a valid prescription. They must be paying more than $75 monthly for insulin and must not be enrolled in the state’s Medical Assistance or MinnesotaCare public health insurance plans, which already cover insulin. Manufacturers will either reimburse pharmacies for the costs or replace the insulin.

The state has set up a website for the Minnesota Insulin Safety Net Program at MNinsulin.org that includes information on how to apply and a downloadable application to take to the pharmacy.

Patients who need longer-term help with insulin costs may qualify for the state’s continuing need program, which requires manufacturers to provide insulin to eligible people for up to one year, with an option to renew annually.

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