Emergency insulin program becomes law, key Rx bills remain in limbo

Pres. Jackson speaks in favor of LD 1117 and the Making Health Care Work for Maine before the Senate vote.

AUGUSTA — Two bills sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Eloise Vitelli, D-Arrowsic, and Sen. Cathy Breen, D-Falmouth, that sought to improve prescription drug price transparency and create an emergency insulin program, were signed into law by Gov. Janet Mills yesterday. The two bills — LDs 686 and 673 — were part of the Making Health Care Work for Maine package, a suite of legislation put forward by Senate President Troy Jackson and the Maine Senate Democrats designed to reduce health care costs and rein in the price of prescription medication. 
Two of the remaining proposals — LDs 675 and 1117 — remain on the governor’s desk awaiting her signature. LD 120 has been placed on the special appropriations table awaiting funding. The Making Health Care Work for Maine package earned strong, bipartisan support in the Maine Legislature last week.
“No parent should have to worry about whether or not their children will have a chance to grow up due to the outrageous cost of insulin. No child should have to skip school and come before the Legislature because they worry about whether or not they’ll be able to afford insulin as an adult. Make no mistake — the new emergency insulin program from Sen. Breen will save lives. The new transparency law from Sen. Vitelli will help lawmakers better understand the high price of prescription drugs so we can take appropriate action. But to truly deliver meaningful relief for Maine families and seniors, we cannot rest until the entire Making Health Care Work for Maine package becomes law,” said President Jackson. “Maine families and seniors can’t afford for elected officials to drag their feet or back down in the face of fear-mongering and aggressive threats. Lives are on the line. Mainers are counting on to stand up to Big Pharma, fight back and lead the nation on prescription drug reform.”
LD 686, “An Act To Increase Prescription Drug Pricing Transparency” allows the Maine Health Data Organization to make the information collected from drug manufacturers accessible to the public. The new law from Sen. Vitelli builds on her previous efforts to strengthen drug price transparency laws, allowing lawmakers to close loopholes, rein in costs and identify bad actors.
“The secrecy around the pricing of lifesaving medication has allowed the price of prescription medication to spiral out of control. Without the information to understand what’s driving these exorbitant prices, how can we expect to do anything about it?” said Sen. Vitelli. “This bill plays a key role in developing a long-term strategy to lower costs for Maine people. However, transparency alone won’t lower costs. Together, the Making Health Care Work for Maine bills equip lawmakers and Maine people with the tools to lower costs and hold drug companies accountable both now and into the future.”
LD 673, “An Act To Create the Insulin Safety Net Program” from Sen. Breen creates an emergency insulin program modeled after a new Minnesota law. The program would make an emergency 30-day supply of insulin available to eligible Mainers at any pharmacy for less than $35. Since its discovery more than 100 years agoinsulin’s price has skyrocketed, with more Americans skipping doses and in some cases dying due to cost. More than 400 Minnesotans have utilized the new program since it began last summer. The program would be funded by insulin manufacturers by requiring them to register with the state. 
“Few drugs exemplify the deep flaws within our health care system quite like insulin. Americans with diabetes die every day because they cannot afford the 100-year-old drug, even though its inventors tried to ensure price wouldn’t prevent people from benefiting from this lifesaving discovery. An insulin safety net program won’t solve the prescription drug crisis, but it will save lives,” said Sen. Breen. “I’m so grateful for the extraordinary Mainers who bravely testified before the Legislature’s Health Coverage, Insurance and Financial Services Committee. These powerful stories were essential to getting LD 673 to the governor’s desk and into law. I’m hopeful this safety net program will provide emergency relief while we continue to work on more wide-reaching prescription drug reforms.”
The two bills that remain on the governor’s desk target price gouging and unsupported prescription drug price increases.
LD 1117, “An Act To Prevent Excessive Prices for Prescription Drugs” from Pres. Jackson would prohibit excessive price increases for generic and off-patent prescription drugs sold in Maine. The amended bill requires the Maine Health Data Organization to notify the Attorney General of excessive price increases prohibited by the bill. The Attorney General would then investigate the allegations and penalize pharmaceutical companies found in violation of the law. 
LD 675, “An Act To Protect Maine Consumers from Unsupported Price Increases on Prescription Medicines by Creating an Independent Review Process” from Sen. Claxton prohibits pharmaceutical companies from raising the cost of their drugs without evidence to support the increase. Drug companies found in violation of the law would be fined by the State Treasurer based on information provided from the Prescription Drug Affordability Board. The overnight price hikes of prescription medication often grab headlines, but gradual unnecessary increases also put a strain on working families and seniors with fixed incomes. 
Gov. Mills has until June 29 to sign, veto or allow LD 675 and LD 1117 to become law without her signature. The Maine Legislature will reconvene on Wednesday, June 30 to wrap up outstanding legislative business, including LD 120.

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