Sen. Carpenter introduces 2 bills to lower drug prices

Posted: May 12, 2017 | Senator Carpenter

AUGUSTA — Two bills introduced by Sen. Mike Carpenter, D-Houlton, would lower the cost of prescription drugs in Maine.

The bills — LD 652 and LD 655 — were the subject of public hearings in the Health and Human Services Committee on Monday.

LD 652, “An Act to Provide Drug Price Relief,” would require state agencies to pay the same or lower price than the VA, who require that drug corporations give a substantial discount on the purchase of prescription drugs.

LD 655, “An Act to Lower the Price MaineCare Pays for Prescription Drugs,” requires the Commissioner of Health and Human Services to negotiate the lowest price for all prescription drugs for programs under MaineCare, unless prohibited by federal law. Negotiating for better prices can have a huge impact on publicly funded health care plans. For example, estimates show that negotiating drug prices in Medicare could save more than $200 billion and a recent poll shows that 82 percent of Americans favor this sort of policy.

“Drug corporations and their lobbyists will argue that the sky will fall if they are forced to sell prescriptions at lower prices, but the simple fact is price gouging is more profitable than protecting working class people and seniors,” said Sen. Carpenter. “Drug prices in Maine and around the country are far too high and out of reach for many families.”

Drug prices in the United States are higher than most western nations, often forcing families to choose between food and medicine. According to a CBS story last year, drug prices are expected to rise faster than wages this year.

“Prescription drug costs are one of the largest drivers of rising healthcare costs in Maine and nationally. The problem is accelerating,” said Matt Schlobohm, Executive Director for the Maine AFL-CIO. “From 2013 to 2015 spending on prescription drugs nationally increased 20 percent. Drug costs are expected to continue rising at an average rate of 6.7 percent nationally from 2016 through 2025.”

Cokie Giles of the Maine State Nurses Association and Don Berry of the Maine Alliance for Retired Americans also spoke in favor of LD 652 at the hearing.

Both bills face further action in the Health and Human Services Committee and votes in the House and Senate.