June 3, 2019 Media

GOP Senator Who Sunk Alec Smith Insulin Act Says Smith “Didn’t Need to Die”

Housley falsely claimed Smith “could have called his doctor” to get insulin

Late last week, in audio obtained by the DFL, GOP State Senator Karin Housley appears to have blamed Alec Smith, who passed away in 2017 due to insulin rationing, for not having access to insulin, saying “he didn’t need to die, this Alec Smith.” Housley went on to incorrectly claim Smith could have obtained insulin under a program he didn’t qualify for.

Housley’s ignorant and callous remarks came shortly after she cast the deciding vote (34-33) against the Alec Smith Emergency Insulin Act.

“We already have a program in place, a fee per purchase, a fee for provider at the…at your pharmacy,” said Housley at a St. Paul Chamber of Commerce Legislative Session Debrief on May 30th. “So, and Doc Jensen always says too, the most important thing is you want these people to have a relationship with their doctor and you already can. He didn’t need to die, this Alec Smith. He could have called his doctor and if there was a program in place, then he could have gotten the insulin for free.”

This is incorrect for multiple reasons. Alec Smith did not qualify for the fee for service programs Housley was referring to due to his income. Those programs, part of Medical Assistance, have an income cutoff of $17,112 for individuals in 2019 and $16,632 in 2018, and Smith was earning $35,000 when he passed away in 2017. Even if Smith did qualify for the program, he likely could not have gotten on quickly enough. Smith passed away 27 days after turning 26 and losing his health insurance. Smith could not, as Housley said, simply have called his doctor for insulin.

“Karin Housley’s ignorance and callousness are shocking,” said DFL Chairman Ken Martin. “Housley just does not understand how difficult things are for Minnesotans who can’t afford life-saving medications, and she clearly does not care to. It’s appalling that Housley would baselessly critique Alec Smith’s approach to managing his insulin after casting the deciding vote against the Alec Smith Emergency Insulin Act.”

Housley’s remarks are the latest in a series of implausible and unworkable solutions Republicans have offered to Minnesotans who can’t afford their medications.

  • Senator Michelle Benson, who also voted against the Alec Smith Emergency Insulin Act, had suggested that Minnesotans who cannot afford insulin can simply visit the emergency room or make use of coupons.
  • Five Republican Senators, including Housley, also suggested that the same drug manufacturers and distributors who have been jacking up drug prices could be relied on to “donate product and financial support” to Minnesotans in need.

“It’s time for Karin Housley to stop being part of the problem,” added Martin. “Housley and her fellow Republicans need to step aside and stop blocking DFL bills that increase access to life-saving medications.”

Click here to listen to Housley’s full answer on insulin. Her remarks quoted in this press release come at around a minute into the audio clip.