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Paying more for your prescription? States consider bills to control prices

Lawmakers in Hawaii, Maine, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Rhode Island and Washington are considering changes that are designed to control costs for patients.
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INDIANAPOLIS — As Americans pay an increasing amount of money out-of-pocket for prescription drugs, lawmakers in several states are considering measures to cap drug prices and punish companies that raise the prices without justification. Kaiser Health News, a non-profit news service, found lawmakers in Hawaii, Maine, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Rhode Island and Washington are considering changes that are designed to control costs for patients.

Kaiser points to several studies that underscore the importance of lower drug prices to consumers and the urgency for lawmakers to take action. Politico and Harvard University released results of a survey last month that found reducing prescription costs was the second-highest policy priority for Americans. The survey found 87 percent of those surveyed favor federal action to lower prices.

For many families, the high cost of medication means going without. 13 Investigates spoke with an Indianapolis mother who was struggling with the choices back in 2019. 

“Do I pay rent or do I buy insulin? Do I buy food or do I get my insulin? Those are the choices you face when you have Type 1 diabetes,” Christi Eggers told 13 Investigates senior reporter Bob Segall.

Kaiser Health News reviewed the bills currently being proposed. It found legislators in three states – Hawaii, Maine and Washington – proposed bills that would add an 80 percent tax on the increased price if an independent drug research group finds the clinical value of the drug did not increase as much as the price did.

Kaiser quotes the author of the bill in Maine, Democratic Senator Ned Claxton, as saying, “I’m not looking to gather more tax dollars….The best outcome would be to have drug companies just sell at a lower price.”

Lawmakers in five states — Hawaii, Maine, North Dakota, Oklahoma, and Rhode Island — will consider bills that let the states set rates for certain drugs. Kaiser reports that the National Academy for State Health Policy estimates that could reduce prices by an average of 75 percent.

In addition, as part of his budget plan, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker proposed penalizing pharmaceutical companies for price hikes.

Kaiser reports that drug makers object to the current bills. They quote a written statement from the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America. “The outcomes of these policies would only make it harder for people to get the medicines they need and would threaten the crucial innovation necessary to get us out of a global pandemic,” the trade group wrote.