Boy died because he was unable to afford life saving medication

Ksenia Novikova
Jun 04, 2018
06:26 A.M.
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After he became too old to stay on his mother's healthcare, he couldn't afford to pay for his medication anymore. 


In June 2017, Alec Smith had just celebrated his 26th birthday. Unfortunately, this meant that he could no long remain on his mother's healthcare. 

With type 1 diabetes, Smith urgently needed to find another option to pay for his daily insulin shots, but found that all private insurance plans were completely unaffordable, according to a report by People

He could not afford to pay for the medication on his own dime, so without telling his family he was in trouble, he decided to ration his remaining insulin shots. 

Just 27 days later, he was found dead in his apartment with an severe insulin deficiency. 


“I was absolutely stunned,” Smith’s mother, Nicole Smith-Holt, told People. “I would’ve never predicted that that’s what would have taken his life” 

Smith-Holt is now trying to turn her son's unnecessary death into a campaign to lower the cost of important medications for people who can't afford to pay for them. 


As his birthday neared, the mother-son duo knew that he would need to find a different healthcare plan. Smith was a manager at a local restaurant, which meant that his salary was too high to qualify for Medicaid. 

Unfortunately, it was still not enough for him to be able to afford his monthly insulin supply. 

“We were forced to go to the marketplace to look for private insurance,” Smith-Holt explains. “What we were coming up with was a huge range of prices, but when we were looking at something that would let him see his same physicians and his same endocrinologist, that plan was running about $450 a month, with a $7,600 deductible. It’s like not having insurance at all.”


They decided it wasn't worth it, as Smith would have to pay $1,300 for his insulin every month anyway. 


Smith planned to hold off on purchasing insurance until he could find a better job, hopefully one that would include employer-covered healthcare. 

But his family didn't realize that he couldn't even afford his first month's supply of insulin. When he had gone to a pharmacy to buy it, he had discovered he didn't have enough money in his bank account to pay for it. 

He had simply decided that he would ration out what he had left, trying to stretch out his supply until he received his next paycheck. 

“I think for the first two months I was completely shutdown — I couldn’t really function at all. Just dealing with his death in the first place, and such a senseless, needless death threw our whole family for quite a loop,” Smith-Holt said. 


A year after his death, Smith-Holt is working alongside Minnesota lawmakers to set up a bill that prevent any other senseless deaths among people who can't afford their medication. 

The bill is named after her son, the Alec Smith Emergency Insulin Act, and would work with people on a cost for their medication, depending on their income. 

Smith-Holt hopes to also see federal laws put into place that will stop pharmaceutical companies from raising their prices unnecessarily. 

“We want laws in place to prevent pharmaceutical companies from randomly raising prices, and pushing people to make such horrible decisions on how they can afford life-saving medication,” Smith-Holt said. “Type 1 diabetics need daily injections, so we would like transparency, we would like to see list prices go down and laws in place to prevent big pharma from price-gouging people.”

She wants this to be her son's legacy, to save others from a similar unnecessary fate.