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Swedzinski’s ‘no’ votes difficult to defend

“No one should lose their life because they can’t afford the insulin they need to survive.”

— DFL state Rep. Mike Howard, (District 50A)

Enough House members agreed with Howard to participate in a long-drawn out process involving disputes and bi-partisan negotiations that stretched out from the 2019 Legislative session into the current session.

The insulin bill was introduced after Nicole Smith-Holf told the story of her son, an uninsured Minneapolis diabetic. Alec Smith, died in 2017 at the age of 26 from being forced to ration his supply of the drug. Smith couldn’t afford the $1,300 per month that was needed for the drug and testing supplies since he wasn’t on his mother’s insurance anymore and had to ration his insulin, which can be very common for those who don’t have enough insurance coverage, but also extremely dangerous.

The bill creates an emergency supply for 30 days for diabetics who need insulin now and can’t afford it. It also sets up a longer-term program for those under certain income limits and don’t have insurance (or insurance with large co-pays). Both have the drug companies providing the product, either by resupplying pharmacists or sending insulin directly to patients

The House passed the bill 111-22. Unfortunately, Rep. Chris Swedzinski, R-Ghent, was among the 22 “no” votes. The bill was eventually passed in the Senate 67-0 and Gov. Tim Walz signed it.

When asked about his vote, Swedzinski brought up an odd comparison to the buffer law from 2015 using an analogy with beef producers. Swedzinski owes voters in the 16A District a better explanation for voting against a bill that drew support from both sides of the aisle.

Swedzinski also voted against the fourth COVID-19 relief package, citing budget concerns. That bill passed the House on a 103-31 vote and the Senate voted 64-3. The bill also went to the governor for his signature.

Among other things, that bill offered provisions to cover some testing costs for those who are uninsured and provide easier access for health care providers to work with telemedicine.

We appreciate Swedzinki’s concern for the budget. However, both of these provisions are important elements in the state’s struggle in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Like the insulin bill, it’s a matter of life and death.

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