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Montana lawmakers kill bill intended to increase access to life-saving insulin

HELENA — Lawmakers have rejected a fourth bill aiming to enhance access to insulin. 

On Wednesday, the House Health and Human Services Committee tabled The Montana Insulin Safety Net Program Act on a 10-9 vote, which would have established a program to get insulin to people who need it most. 

Under the act, people with diabetes would have been eligible for a free bottle of insulin from the state once per year if they have an insurance co-pay of more than $75, were not on Medicaid and had seven or fewer days worth of insulin left. 

Proponents at the hearing said the bill was a way to keep people from rationing their insulin between paychecks. Quinn Leighton, who was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at age three, spoke in support of the bill on behalf of T1 International, an organization that supports laws to reduce insulin prices.

“We need that insulin to stay alive and be able to function,” Leighton said. 

The lone opponent at the hearing was Asher Lisec, who spoke on behalf of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America.

Missoula Democratic Rep. Katie Sullivan said she built the bill in the image of the Minnesota Insulin Affordability Act, which became law in that state in 2020.

“Theirs is called the ‘Alec Smith Insulin Affordability Act’ and it’s going well so far in Minnesota so I thought ‘let’s see if we can do this in Montana.’”

Three other bills killed earlier this session would have capped the cost of insulin at $100 or less for a 30-day supply. Democrats sponsored all of the bills. House Bill 222, sponsored by Rep. Jessica Karjala, D-Billings, died in the House Human Services Committee on an 11-8 vote in February.

House Bill 508, sponsored by Rep. Willis Curdy, D-Missoula also died 11-8 in February in the same committee. Senate Bill 321 died on a 4-5 vote in the Senate Public Health Welfare and Safety Committee in late February.