Work to lower health care costs important as ever during pandemic
One of the issues that I still hear about the most from constituents and folks around the state is the high cost of medication and heath care. The unfortunate reality is that many Mainers struggle to afford medication that was prescribed to them by their doctor or are simply afraid to see a doctor because of the high costs that might come from a visit.
This problem hasn’t subsided with the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, the fears of people around Maine have only grown, and new questions have arisen. There are questions like: What does it mean for folks if they lose their job and need to get insurance? How much does getting that COVID-19 test cost? When a vaccine is determined to be safe and ready, will insurance cover it, and will everyone be able to afford it?
These are not questions that should have to be asked. No one should have to worry about the cost of health care, medications or the availability of a lifesaving vaccine in the future, let alone in the middle of a pandemic.
It’s for these reasons that I’m proud of the work my colleagues and I have done over the last two years to address the high costs of medications and health care in Maine. During our first legislative session in 2019, we passed a package of laws aimed at lowering the cost of prescription medication. One law allowed for the importation of high-quality, safe medication from Canada. A plan for implementation has already been sent to the federal government for approval
We also passed laws that established a drug affordability board, expanded transparency in drug pricing, and one that will regulate pharmacy benefit managers, the so-called “middlemen” of the pharmaceutical industry who profit off consumers paying a higher price.
We were proud of the progress we made, but we knew there was more work to be done. That’s why this year, we introduced a new set of bills fittingly named the “Patients First” package, because the new laws will help make our health care system work for patients, not corporate profits.
We passed laws to crack down on abusive billing practices in the health care industry and one to cap the out-of-pocket cost of insulin for people on certain insurance plans at $35 a month. And we had to carry-over a bill to create a commission on affordable health care, which would look at ways to lower costs and save consumers money. Similar boards in other states have saved substantial amounts of money for consumers and businesses. This is one of the bills we’re hoping to pass into law during a potential special session.
While there will still be more questions and concerns to be addressed because of the pandemic, I’m thankful for all the work we’ve done to help us get through these tough times. I have no doubt that the new laws we’ve passed will help make life easier for Mainers despite the challenging circumstances we face on a daily basis. When new issues come up related to the virus, or if drug companies try to profit off the pandemic, I’ll be here to fight for you, so no matter where you live or how much money you make, you can access and afford high-quality health care.
If you have a question, comment or need help with anything, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me. You can email me at James.Dill@legislature.maine.gov or call my office at 207-287-1515.