Glassman Calls on Hogan to Sign Prescription Drug Affordability Bill

Barry Glassman USE
Harford County Executive Barry Glassman

Harford County Executive and 2019 MACo President, Barry Glassman, this week penned an op-ed in Maryland Matters urging Governor Larry Hogan to sign legislation aimed at reducing prescription drug costs for county and state employees. HB768/SB759 – Health – Prescription Drug Affordability Board, creates the Prescription Drug Affordability Board to safeguard against unconscionably high drug prices.

Skyrocketing prescription drug prices make insurance coverage expensive for counties and other employers to provide and difficult for employees to access given their share of out-of-pocket costs. This bill establishes a first-in-the-nation panel to identify and set “upper-payment limits” on costly prescription medications.

According to Maryland Matters:

Prescription drug costs are skyrocketing across the United States. Take insulin, for example. The cost of this life-saving drug nearly tripled between 2002 and 2013, forcing some Americans to forgo this indispensable medicine. We spend more money on prescription drugs than citizens of any other country – in fact, estimates predict that by 2022, nationwide prescription costs will exceed $62 billion.

As county executive of Harford County, I know first-hand that local governments are not immune to this financial burden.

In 2017, Harford County paid for 140 prescriptions of one widely used drug that each cost $9,448 per month – totaling $1.3 million. Altogether our county paid $13.3 million in 2017 on medications for our hard-working employees.

Given recent industry trends, those costs are only going to rise. We’re not alone. Across Maryland, counties, cities and towns, as well as the state government, must shoulder the financial strain of expensive prescriptions. Drug costs are surging, and state and local governments must keep paying more.

This commonsense bill is going to help Harford County – and local governments all over the state – save money on costly drugs. These funds can be directed to other priorities, such as education and public safety. I believe enacting this bill would be a fiscally prudent decision for our state. I urge Governor Hogan, a fellow Maryland Republican, to sign this legislation.

Prescription drug spending nationwide ballooned to $333.4 billion in 2017, according to the National Health Expenditure data. Maryland was in the top 20 for total state health care spending in 2014, at $51.3 billion – a more than 60 percent increase from 2004, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid data.

According to the legislation, the board must conduct a cost review to determine whether the use of a prescription drug product (that is fully consistent with approved labeling or standard medical practice) has led or will lead to affordability challenges for the State health care system or high out-of-pocket costs for patients by considering multiple specified factors and alternate factors.

If the board finds that the spending on a prescription drug product has led or will lead to an affordability challenge, the board must set an upper payment limit after considering specified costs. Beginning July 1, 2021, the board must set upper payment limits for prescription drug products that are:

  • purchased or paid for by a unit of State or local government or an organization on behalf of a unit of State or local government, including State or county correctional  facilities, State hospitals, and health clinics at State institutions of higher education; or
  • paid for through a health benefit plan on behalf of a unit of State or local government, including a county, bicounty, or municipal employee health benefit plan.

These upper payment limits do not apply to the Maryland Medicaid program.

Counties have a keen interest in being able to provide comprehensive health insurance coverage to their employees and their dependents at a cost that is manageable for both the government and their employees. While counties subsidize the cost of insurance offered to eligible employees, those employees still share a portion of those expenses through premiums, co-payments, and deductibles.

Read the full article for more information.