AUGUSTA – Today, Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, Senate Majority Leader Eloise Vitelli, D-Arrowsic, Sen. Cathy Breen, D-Falmouth, and Sen. Ned Claxton, D-Auburn joined patients, health care providers and advocates to unveil the Making Health Care Work for Maine package. The suite of bills targets outrageous health care spending, unsupported and extreme prescription drug prices, and price transparency.
“In the middle of a once-in-lifetime pandemic, pharmaceutical companies have continued to raise the price of lifesaving medication. ‘Big Pharma’ doesn’t need a reason to jack up prescription drug prices. They do it because they can. That’s why in the Maine Legislature, we are taking things into our own hands,” said President Jackson. “Mainers deserve a health care system that works for them, not against them. And we know better than to wait for the federal government to act or for wealthy corporations to do what is right. With the Making Health Care Work for Maine package, more Maine families will get the care and lifesaving medication they need without spending their life savings.”
The Making Health Care Work for Maine package includes:
- LD 120, “An Act To Lower Health Care Costs through the Establishment of the Office of Affordable Health Care” from President Jackson would rein in costs by identifying what is driving sky-high prices. It also aims to limit increases in the amount we pay for health care annually.
- LD 1117, “An Act To Prevent Excessive Prices for Prescription Drugs” from President Jackson would protect Mainers from price gouging. This bill focuses on the outrageous, headline-grabbing spikes on generic medication or off-patent drugs that have been on the market for years with no new developments.
- LD 686, “An Act To Increase Prescription Drug Pricing Transparency” from Sen. Vitelli would allow the Maine Health Data Organization to share the information they’ve collected from drug companies with the public. With this information, lawmakers can understand how and why drug companies are taking advantage of working people and pass targeted legislation to close loopholes and rein in costs.
- LD 675, “An Act To Protect Maine Consumers from Unsupported Price Increases on Prescription Medicines by Creating an Independent Review Process” from Sen. Claxton, a retired family doctor, would prohibit the sale of drugs whose prices have increased where there was inadequate evidence to support those increases.
- LD 673, “An Act To Create the Insulin Safety Net Program” from Sen. Breen, would provide a lifeline to Mainers with diabetes, especially those who don’t have state-regulated health care plans when they need an emergency supply of insulin. Mainers with diabetes would be able to get an emergency 30-supply of insulin at their pharmacy for $35.
“For years, pharmaceutical companies have kept the drug pricing process purposefully in the dark, leaving consumers with no choice but to pay up or lose out. However, in Maine, we believe that sunshine is the best disinfectant,” said Sen. Vitelli. “It’s why we’ve led the nation on drug price transparency laws. It’s a good start, but we can’t let up, especially when the people in our communities are still struggling. We believe that consumers have a right to know what they are paying for.”
“For me, a particularly hard part about caring for my patients was dealing with the high price of prescription medication. It’s hard when the only thing standing in the way of your patient’s recovery or improvement is the price of their medication,” said Sen. Claxton. “As a doctor, I worked hard to help my patients deal with the high cost of prescription drugs. Now, as a state senator, I’m working with my colleagues to get my constituents and former patients meaningful relief.”
“Too many Maine families and individuals with Type 1 diabetes were already living financially on the edge due to the outrageous cost of insulin in this country. The COVID-19 pandemic only makes things worse,” said Sen. Breen. “There’s no question that the pharmaceutical industry is in desperate need of reform, especially when it comes to 100-year old drugs like insulin. Putting an end to the insulin racket won’t happen overnight. As we work to rein in prescription drug prices both at the state and federal level, my bill is about saving lives now.”
The cost of medication is 256 percent higher in the U.S. than in at least 23 other countries. According to reports from before the COVID-19 pandemic, one in seven Mainers reported skipping treatment or care because the costs were too high.
The Legislature’s Health Coverage, Insurance and Financial Services Committee will hold public hearings on all five bills in the coming weeks.