When you vote, think of Alec Smith
Ten days before an election is when you’d expect to find a biting analysis of the latest presidential debate, or another blast about soft money fueling out-of-control campaign advertising in this space.
Not now. We’re not even going to spend a lot of words urging civility in the runup to the most contentious national election in a lifetime.
We are, however, going to cite an example of what’s at stake — how your vote can make a life-or-death difference to real people. Real Minnesotans.
Back in April, both houses of the Minnesota Legislature passed the Alec Smith Insulin Affordability Act, authored by Rep. Michael Howard (DFL-Richfield). The bill was quickly signed into law by Gov. Tim Walz.
And with that, this nation’s only divided Legislature cooperated on action that makes life far less risky for almost 8% of their constituents — more than 330,000 people with diabetes.
Two parties, two houses of the Legislature and the executive branch, along with many passionate advocates, made law that will save lives.
They found common ground.
The law took effect July 1, rendering the comorbidities of diabetes and tight finances less lethal than they were three years earlier — when the bill’s namesake could only come up with $1,000 of the $1,300 he needed to buy the insulin he depended on to stay alive.
A Type 1 diabetic, 26 years old and a father, Alec Smith rationed what insulin he had. And he died one day in 2017 because, as his mother, Nicole Smith-Holt, put it to this Editorial Board, “he didn’t have the financial means to stay alive.”
He didn’t have the financial means to stay alive.
As of July 1, the law named after Alec Smith allows anyone with a prescription for insulin to go directly to their pharmacy and obtain an emergency supply for no more than $35. A second part of the act allows diabetics in financial straits to purchase 90-day supplies for no more than $50, for up to a year.
Advocate and insulin user Abigail Hansmeyer told our board she would normally pay about $647 for two vials of insulin, a drug that is far from new to the market and which sells for about $35 per vial in Canada.
Huge price spikes by the three companies that dominate about 90% of the insulin market sparked the crisis, so the Minnesota law makes the companies responsible for covering the cost of supplying the insulin to patients in need.
Before you feel too sorry for those companies, be aware: They have sued the state over this law.
Another salient point: The discoverers of insulin, Frederick Banting and Charles Best, sold their patent to the University of Toronto in 1922 for $1. One dollar — because they believed it was important to save lives.
Having passed at the height of the first onslaught of COVID-19 and having taken effect in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death, word of Alec’s law has had a tough time getting out, even to pharmacists, doctors and patients. So we’re asking you to help spread the word. The details are at www.mninsulin.org.
And then we’ll ask you whether this is the kind of work you’d like lawmakers to get done. If it is, vote that way. Vote for people of principle who know when it’s time to work together to help the people who elected them.
This is what you’re voting for: Government that gets things done, interfering only when proven necessary.
— St. Cloud Times