FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 21, 2021
Contact: Kenza Hadj-Moussa, 612-386-9556
Minnesota House Passes Nation Leading Prescription Drug Affordability Board
Patients urge lawmakers to approve the Board in negotiations with the Senate
(ST. PAUL, MN)–After 26 year old Alec Smith passed away because he could not afford insulin, patients, experts, and a bipartisan group of lawmakers came together under a task force headed by Attorney General Keith Ellison and co-chaired by Nicole Smith-Holt to identify solutions to high prescription drug costs. Today, the Minnesota House approved a Prescription Drug Affordability Board, a top recommendation made by the task force in its commerce omnibus bill.
Travis Paulson, a patient advocate from Eveleth who has spoken out about drug costs for years, considers himself a medical refugee. Before COVID, he was leading caravans of patients to Canada for cheaper insulin. As a young adult, insulin was affordable, but by the time he turned 30 he lost nearly everything trying to afford insulin that cost $1,500 per month.
“Minnesotans like me have been speaking out about high prescription costs for years,” said Paulson. “I figured out how to leave the country while others do things like navigate the underground market on Craigslist to get the medicine needed to stay alive. Enough is enough. We need a Prescription Drug Affordability Board and lawmakers on our side.”
A 2020 survey released by Altarum Health Care Value Hub revealed nearly half of Minnesotans worry about being able to pay for prescription drugs and 87% of respondents support a Prescription Drug Affordability Board.
The Board would have the authority to set upper-payment limits on certain high-cost drugs, lowering costs for patients, insurers, and providers.
“The costs of prescription drugs continue to skyrocket in the U.S., even during a global pandemic, making it difficult for Minnesotans to afford their prescriptions,” said physician and chief author Rep. Kelly Morrison (DFL-Deephaven). “As a doctor, I regularly see how the high cost of drugs keeps people from being able to access the medicine they need. Unless we do more to keep costs down, more people will not be able to afford their drugs leading to poorer health outcomes and higher health care costs.”
Six states have passed similar Boards.
Rep. Zack Stephenson, chair of the House Commerce committee lifted up the Board on the House Floor. “I think all members have had those conversations and they break your heart,” said Rep. Stephenson. “No one should have to choose between paying for the medication they need or skipping their mortgage.”
Patients will urge legislators to include the Board in the commerce bill that will be negotiated by the House and Senate this spring.
Attorney General Keith Ellison lifted up the Board at a news conference with patients and lawmakers earlier this legislative session calling it an idea whose time has come. “It is going to take a big lift to make this law,” said Ellison. “It’s going to take people-power. We need to do this together with our legislators and with our community to push this over the finish line.”
TakeAction Minnesota is a statewide, multiracial grassroots organization advancing justice and equity through organizing, policy, and campaigns. Offices are located in St. Paul, Duluth, and St. Cloud.