As someone who practiced family medicine in Gorham for many years. I’ve worked with patients who have struggled to afford their medications, primary care and specialist visits, lab testing and hospitalizations because of the costs of health insurance premiums, copays/coinsurance and deductibles. Nothing breaks my heart more than knowing that some Mainers cannot afford their health care, because I believe health care is a human right. As my time in the Legislature comes to an end, I am incredibly proud of the prescription drug package my colleagues and I worked on together and passed, in a bipartisan fashion, to advocate for consumers. Most of these laws have now gone into effect, but I know people are still hurting. If the federal government and state government can work together on this problem, I know we can create even more change.

At first glance, it seems like a recent federal ruling is a win for Mainers: Just weeks ago, the federal government created a process for states to begin importing prescription drugs from other countries. This seemed like it would pair well with the law the Maine Legislature passed last session, “An Act To Increase Access to Low-cost Prescription Drugs.” The impetus for this law came from knowing our Canadian counterparts were paying significantly less for the same prescriptions than Mainers were. According to drugwatch.com, Americans saved an average of 65 percent on their prescriptions when they bought them in Canada. Even though our importation bill is now state law, the U.S. government has to sign-off on its implementation. Disappointingly, the recent federal ruling does nothing to change the current situation. Instead, it puts more rules and bureaucracy in place and gives too much leverage to the same pharmaceutical companies who are part of the reason drugs cost so much.

My colleagues and I did have success with other prescription drug bills aimed at protecting consumers. We passed “An Act to Protect Consumers from Unfair Practices Related to Pharmacy Benefits Management,” which I co-sponsored, to hold the corporate middle man accountable when setting prescription drug prices. This law went into effect at the beginning of this year for the purpose of ensuring that pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs), the intermediaries between pharmaceutical companies and health insurance companies, pass on negotiated savings on drugs to the consumers, rather than keep large profits for themselves. “An Act To Further Expand Drug Price Transparency,” creates a system to track changes in costs of prescription drugs and drug company spending and “An Act To Establish Maine Prescription Drug Affordability Board” means that consumers will have an official board to look out for their best interests.

Another law I co-sponsored was “An Act To Save Lives by Capping the Out-of-pocket Cost of Certain Medications,” which caps the amount individual and small market insurance companies can charge for insulin, a costly drug that some people with diabetes need to survive every day. The price of insulin has skyrocketed because pharmaceutical companies have no oversight to prevent this abusive pricing. Now these insurers cannot charge more than $35 for out-of-pocket costs for a 30-day-supply of insulin.

I’m proud of the prescription drug package we passed in the Legislature, but I know there is still work to be done. There’s only so much we can do at the state level. The federal government needs to step up and protect all of us when it comes to health care costs. My colleagues and I want the best for Mainers, and we will continue working to do all we can to make sure you and your family can afford the medical care you need. The federal government needs to do its part too.

If you ever have questions about how your health care is affected by the laws we passed, please reach out to me at [email protected] or call my office at (207) 287-1515.

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