Breaking Update on Prescription Drug Affordability Board bill from Health Care for All

March 18, 1:00 PM:

“We expect that the Senate Finance Committee could vote on the Prescription Drug Affordability Board legislation as early as this week. It is very important that your organization contact all eleven members of the Committee (contact info, draft email/letter) and strongly urge them to support SB 759 and to oppose efforts to weaken the bill by the drug corporations and Big PhrMA.

In particular we know that the drug corporations will be urging that the Board not have the authority to set upper payment limits on what Marylanders can pay for high cost drugs.  This would, of course, take away from the Board the key power we want it to have to make prescription drugs more affordable for Marylanders.

It is CRITICAL that every member of the Senate Finance Committee hears from you on behalf of your organization as soon as possible this week that they must pass SB 759 with the Board’s upper payment limit authority intact. Here is their contact information, and here is a draft email/letter you can use when contacting the Committee members.”

Health Care for All is a partner of the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland in many of our advocacy efforts to create healthier lives for God’s people.

It’s been a busy legislative session full of advocacy days, media events, and hearings, and today is the crossover date when bills need to have be passed and sent to the other house. Thank you for all that you have done. Most recently, Senate and House Committees have held hearings on the Prescription Drug Affordability Board (SB759 / HB768) and the Health Insurance Down Payment Plan (SB 802 / HB814). The Prescription Affordability Board bills have both been heard. Our legislative team testified at their hearings and the Rev. Ken Phelps participated in a press conference regarding them. Voting results are pending. (See the full list of bills we are following this session here.

Last month the Supreme Court rejected Maryland’s bid to revive the 2017 anti-price gouging law. The law, which was designed to protect Marylanders from unconscionable price increases of essential generic and off-patent medications was a landmark measure in states’ efforts to address the skyrocketing costs of prescription drugs. This decision makes it more imperative the General Assembly pass the Prescription Drug Affordability Board legislation (SB759 / HB768) this year. Senator Kathy Klausmeier and Delegate Joseline Peña-Melnyk have had a strong leadership role in working to make high cost drugs more affordable for Marylanders. Attorney General Brian Frosh, as well, has been a leader on this life-saving issue.

Some of our congregations and our Bishop, Eugene Taylor Sutton, signed on to support the creation of a Prescription Drug Affordability Board, the goal being to give our communicants and all Marylanders greater health by making prescription drugs more affordable for Marylanders. Bishop Sutton invited congregations to offer support for this board in a message sent to church leadership January 18, 2019. “In the community of love that is the Diocese of Maryland, we are always seeking ways to enhance the health of our members,” he wrote.

Another advocacy opportunity available is to defend the gains made under the Affordable Care in Maryland. The ACA has provided coverage to over 400,000 Marylanders. But, this progress is in danger because of the federal decision not to enforce the individual mandate. If you feel called, contact your legislators and urge them to co-sponsor legislation to be introduced by Senator Brian Feldman and Delegate Joseline Peña-Melnyk to create a Health Insurance Down Payment Plan (SB 802 / HB814). This bill has passed the house. SB802 has not been voted on yet. The plan would give people without health coverage a choice: either pay a penalty to the state or instead use that money to purchase quality, affordable healthcare. Not only would this help stabilize the individual market, but it could incentivize over 130,000 more Marylanders get the coverage they need. You can visit Health Care for All!s Action Page to easily send emails to all of your state legislators and see their phone numbers. Or, you can look up their information at mdelect.net. Thank you for all that you continue to do to support quality, affordable healthcare for all Marylanders. If you are called, contact your legislators and urge them to support  SB 802/ HB 814, especially if they are members of the Senate Finance or House HGO Insurance and Pharmaceuticals Subcommittee. Fill out the Health Care for All! form to email all of your legislators at once, call them at 410-841-3000, or find contact information for the Committee members here.

The full list of bills we are following this session can be found here. Thank you for your engagement and concern for the well-being all of God’s people. The Rev. Kathy Shahinian serves as our Diocesan Public Policy Advocate. We are grateful for all of her hard work in organizing our advocacy efforts. We will share updates from Kathy and the Maryland Episcopal Public Policy Network as they are ready.