Feb. 5, 2020
Senate introduces legislative package to address
high prescription costs
STATE HOUSE — The Senate today introduced a package of bills aimed at addressing the high price of prescription drugs.
The eight bills aim to reduce the cost of prescriptions by providing a pathway to import less-costly drugs from Canada, providing more market transparency, raising consumer awareness around price changes and limiting patients’ share of the costs.
“Rhode Island’s population is one of the oldest in the nation, and the high prices consumers pay for prescriptions have a significant impact on us. Most older Rhode Islanders have limited means, and the high costs mean many people are cutting back on essentials of living or taking less than their prescribed amount of expensive drugs. The pharmaceutical industry is not going to address this on its own, so it’s up to the state and federal governments to take action,” said Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio (D-Dist. 4, North Providence, Providence).
The eight-bill package was announced today at a legislative reception with AARP Rhode Island, which has been advocating for several of the bills.
The package includes:
· A bill limiting changes to a health plan’s drug formulary — its list of covered drugs — to protect consumers. Sponsored by Sen. Elizabeth A. Crowley (D-Dist. 16, Central Falls, Pawtucket), this legislation (2020-S 2324) would generally limit plans to modifying formularies at renewal time with 60 days’ notice and require that modification be identical among all substantially identical benefit plans.
· Legislation (2020-S 2319) sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Michael J. McCaffrey (D-Dist. 29, Warwick) to cap out-of-pocket expenses for prescription drugs at the federal limits for high-deductible health plans, currently $1,400 for individual plans and $2,800 for family plans.
· A bill (2020-S 2317) sponsored by Senate Majority Whip Maryellen Goodwin (D-Dist. 1, Providence) to prohibit cost sharing for patients 45 or older for colorectal screening examinations, laboratory tests and colonoscopies covered by health insurance policies or plans.
· Legislation (2020-S 2322) sponsored by Sen. Melissa A. Murray (D-Dist. 24, Woonsocket, North Smithfield) to limit the copay for prescription insulin to $50 for a 30-day supply for health plans that provide coverage for insulin.
· A bill sponsored by Sen. Walter S. Felag Jr. (D-Dist. 10, Warren, Bristol, Tiverton) requiring pharmacists to advise patients about less-expensive generic alternatives to their prescriptions or when it would cost them less to pay for their drugs outright instead of using their insurance. The bill (2020-S 2323) would also bar pharmacy benefits managers from imposing gag orders on pharmacists that prevent them from making such disclosures.
· A prescription drug transparency act (2020-S 2318), sponsored by Senate President Ruggerio. This bill would requires pharmaceutical drug manufacturers to provide wholesale drug acquisition cost information to the Department of Health and pharmacy benefit managers to provide information related to drug prices, rebates, fees and drug sales to the health insurance commissioner annually. Such transparency would help payers determine whether high prescription costs are justified.
· A bill (2020-S 2321) sponsored by Sen. Louis P. DiPalma (D-Dist. 12, Middletown, Little Compton, Tiverton, Newport) to create a state-administered program to import wholesale prescription drugs from Canada, which has drug safety regulations similar to those of the United States. Such programs are allowed under federal law, with approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
· Legislation (2020-S 2320) sponsored by Sen. Cynthia A. Coyne (D-Dist. 32, Barrington, Bristol, East Providence) to create a prescription drug affordability board tasked with investigating and comprehensively evaluating drug prices for Rhode Islanders and possible ways to reduce them to make them more affordable.
The bills are all expected to be introduced during the Senate session this afternoon.
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