ST. PAUL — A state senator, representative and the governor walked out of a 30-minute meeting on Friday, Oct. 18, with an agreement to move forward in merging legislation aimed at providing free insulin to Minnesotans who can't afford it.
The accord restarts conversations about how the state could provide the drug to diabetics in need and lawmakers could pave the way for a special session later this year. But first, legislators in the divided Legislature will have to strike a deal about what the program would look like and who should foot the bill for the insulin.
Efforts to draft legislation reached a stalemate in the Legislature in recent weeks. Separate Republican- and Democrat-penned bills addressed different facets of the issue, and until Friday, Senate Republican leaders had been unwilling to combine them.
Gov. Tim Walz a day earlier held a news conference at the Capitol to urge lawmakers to come back to the table to reach a compromise. And on Twitter, the bill authors Sen. Eric Pratt, R-Prior Lake, and Rep. Michael Howard, D-Richfield, said they'd be open to meeting with the governor on Friday morning.
The three emerged from a private meeting on Friday saying they felt the private meeting helped them break a logjam in conversations around the legislation.
“In some ways, we’re starting with a clean slate," Pratt told reporters outside the governor's cabinet room. "We’re going to craft a bipartisan bill that’s going to take elements of the emergency insulin bill, of the longer-term insulin affordability bill and try and find the areas that we agree upon."
Both bills require insulin manufacturers to help provide the drug to Minnesotans who can't afford it. Howard has proposed charging a fee to the manufacturers that would fund insulin supplies for low-income people without insurance or with high-deductible insurance plans. Pratt's proposal, meanwhile, would require insulin manufacturers to supply the drug to needy patients with diabetes who are not already on a public health program.
And it's a positive sign in terms of the ideas coming together that both bills require resources from the manufacturers to run the programs, Howard said.
“We keep clearing some of these hurdles about our big goals and now we just have to come across the table, work to merge these two bills and get something accomplished,” Howard said. “I’m optimistic, but the proof’s going to be in the pudding.”
Members of the workgroup are set to hold their first meeting next week. It wasn't immediately clear whether that would be open to the public. The three said they hoped future meetings about the legislation would be made open.