Gov. Phil Murphy pledged his support to efforts being made by Trenton lawmakers to make prescription drugs more affordable.
A suite of bills in both the State Senate and Assembly are intended to advance prescription drug affordability and price transparency by capping out-of-pocket costs for insulin, asthma inhalers, and EpiPens; allowing the state to join a multi-state purchasing pool to negotiate for more competitive Medicaid drug prices; establishing oversight mechanisms of Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBM) while prohibiting certain business and pricing practices; and setting up comprehensive transparency efforts for pharmaceutical manufacturers, PBMs, wholesale drug distributors, and insurance carriers.
Three Senate Bills
“As I highlighted in my State of the State address just a few weeks ago, I am deeply committed to making high-quality healthcare more affordable for all New Jerseyans,” said Murphy at a press event Feb. 14. “We have made strong strides over the past four years to put health care back within reach of many, but we must continue to find new ways to save consumers money on health care.”
The bills being put forth by State Sens. Nellie Pou (D-35). Troy Singleton (D-7) and Joe Vitale (D-19) are:
- S1614 which requires health insurance carriers to provide coverage for epinephrine auto-injector devices and asthma inhalers; limits cost sharing for health insurance coverage of insulin;
- S1615 which establishes certain data reporting requirements for prescription drug supply chain and requires Division of Consumer Affairs to issue annual report on emerging trends in prescription drug pricing; and
- S1616 which establishes new transparency standards for pharmacy benefits manager business practices.
Pou noted that the COVID-19 crisis exposed long-standing disparities in both access to affordable health coverage as well as the ability to obtain prescription drugs among our under-served, low-income and minority communities.
“We must find new ways to make healthcare costs more transparent, and to make prescription drugs affordable for all residents. No one in New Jersey should have to make a choice between buying medicine for a sick child and paying their household bills,” said the Passaic County lawmaker.
The governor is seeking a fourth bill to provide for expedited procurement by the state of a vendor to manage the operations of a Medicaid Multi-State Pooling Supplemental Rebate Arrangement program and associated uniform Preferred Drug List for the NJ FamilyCare program.
As chair of the Senate Health Committee, Viatle promoted the proposed legislation as bring more transparency and accountability to the drug pricing and distribution process, which will improve access and affordability for consumers.
“Countless New Jerseyans struggle to afford the expense of prescription medicine, especially senior citizens, low income families and individuals, and those who live with chronic health conditions,” said Vitale. “We continue to make great strides in developing medications that can save lives and treat illnesses, but they are of no use if they are unaffordable.”
“They shouldn’t be forced to choose between expensive medicines and paying for other basic needs, and they shouldn’t be put in the position of skipping doses to stretch their prescriptions.”
Assemblyman John McKeon (D-27) offered that with at least 10% of American adults being forced to ration their medicine because they cannot pay for regular doses, “the need for systemic change is indisputable. We must take a strategic approach to getting to the bottom of our state’s prescription drug affordability crisis in order to reduce the strain on our healthcare system and, more importantly, ensure every resident who needs medication can have access to it.”
Murphy reiterated that income limits for the Pharmaceutical Assistance to the Aged and Disabled (PAAD) and the Senior Gold Prescription Discount prescription drug assistance programs have increased by $10,000 for this year, making drug prices more affordable and benefitting over 20,000 seniors.
“From the lifesaving medications to the pills millions of consumers take every day to maintain their health, lowering the cost of prescription drugs is a critical component of our broader health care affordability efforts, and today we are taking a major step forward for both short and long-term affordability,” said the governor.