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Insulin Price Hearing Kicks Off Minnesota Legislative Session

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- First up at the first day of the new Minnesota legislative session: Insulin.

Two hearings in the Minnesota House Tuesday talked about creating an emergency program to help anyone struggling to pay for their life saving medication.

During this House hearing on insulin, mom Shari Wiltrout pulled out $2,290 in singles, which is what it would cost her if she didn't have the health insurance that covers insulin for her 14-year-old twins.

Nicole Smith Holt also testified. Her 26-year-old son Alec died in 2017 after rationing his insulin.

READ MORE: Gov. Walz Introduces Compromise Bill To Improve Affordable Insulin Access

"Every day, Minnesotans with diabetes are rationing their insulin because they cannot afford the skyrocketing price," Smith Holt said. "My son Alec was one of those, and it cost him his life."

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At least five more House committee hearings will be held on the issue. Democrats say they have compromised, agreeing that Minnesota taxpayers will pay for at least $1 million of the program. But they say big pharma should foot the rest of the bill -- estimated at least $10 million a year.

"It's time for Senate Republicans to take a step toward us and acknowledge that the pharmaceutical industry has a role to play," DFL House Speaker Rep. Melissa Hortman said. "This is a problem they created. This is a problem that they profit from."

Republicans say they support a solution, but GOP Senate Majority Paul Gazelka made it clear what he does not want to see.

"It can't be this grand program that moves us towards socialized medicine in some form. That's what we're resisting. I don't think it should be punitive against the pharmaceutical industry," Gazelka said.

A Senate committee hearing on insulin is scheduled for Thursday. Look for a number of legislators to frame this debate against the larger backdrop of increasing out-of-pocket medical costs.

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