Morales Introduces Bills to Address Prescription Drug Costs

STATE HOUSE – Rep. David Morales has introduced two bills to limit the out-of-pocket expenses of prescription drugs for insured people.

The bills would limit the total cost of insulin to $25 per 30-day supply and set a limit of $100 for a 30-day supply of any other prescription drug, including specialty drugs.

Representative Morales (D-Dist. 7, Providence) said introducing these bills was important to the communities he represents because alongside the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on Rhode Island’s public health, high prescription drug costs continue to be an unacceptable barrier that endangers the lives of working people and further threatens their public health.

“Long before COVID-19, prescription drug costs were unaffordable for many middle-class Rhode Islanders, let alone the working-class and poor. Prescription drugs are a necessity because without them the lives of people are literally at risk, yet so many of our neighbors are forced to skip doses or ration their prescriptions because they simply cannot afford them. With so many people out of work, underemployed, or experiencing other financial barriers due to the pandemic, there are now more people who are concerned with how they will afford their prescription drugs,” said Representative Morales. “Just like COVID, high prescription drug costs are a raging public health crisis that requires immediate action. If maintaining your health by taking prescribed drugs is unaffordable for many, especially during these times, then it is clear that our health care system is failing. Therefore, it is the responsibility of our government to address this.”

Many specialty drugs — drugs that fight chronic conditions and treat serious diseases like cancer and AIDS — costs tens of thousands of dollars per year, and the costs have been rising sharply each year. The result is often high cost-sharing for patients.

The cost of insulin, in particular, has risen sharply in the last several years, and the cost is much higher in the United States than in other countries. Millions of Americans depend on insulin for the management of diabetes, and rationing insulin to save money can have dire consequences. In Rhode Island, over 80,000 adults, nearly 10 percent of the state’s adult population, have been diagnosed with diabetes.

The bill limiting insulin costs to $25 per 30-day supply has been cosponsored by more than a dozen representatives, including Rep. Michelle McGaw (D-Dist. 71, Portsmouth, Tiverton, Little Compton) Rep. Joseph McNamara (D-Dist. 19, Warwick, Cranston), Rep. Karen Alzate (D-Dist. 60, Pawtucket), and Deputy Majority Whip Mia A. Ackerman (D-Dist. 45, Cumberland, Lincoln).

Both bills were introduced this week and have received support from the Rhode Island Nurses Association. The insulin bill (2021-H 5151) has been sent to the House Health, Education and Welfare Committee. The $100 limit bill (2021-H 5146) has been transmitted to the House Corporations Committee.