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On World AIDS Day, New Mexico activists say more money is needed for prevention; ND farmers still navigate corporate land-ownership policy maze; Unpaid caregivers in ME receive limited financial grants.

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Secretary of State Antony Blinken urges Israel to protect civilians amid Gaza truce talks, New York Rep. George Santos defends himself as his expected expulsion looms and CDC director warns about respiratory illness as flu season begins.

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Congress has iced the Farm Bill, but farmer advocates argue some portions are urgent, the Hoosier State is reaping big rewards from wind and solar, and opponents react to a road through Alaska's Brooks Range, long a dream destination for hunters and anglers.

MD Lawmakers Urged to Quash Veto of Nation’s First Drug-Pricing Board

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Tuesday, May 12, 2020   

ANNAPOLIS, Md. -- Since Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan refused to sign a measure to fund the state's new Prescription Drug Affordability board last week, health care reform groups now are urging the General Assembly to override the veto.

The first-in-the-nation board was established last year by lawmakers to reduce the cost of prescription drugs, an effort even more important now during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Vinny DeMarco, president of the Maryland Citizen's Health Initiative. He said he's disappointed by the veto of a bill that provides a loan that will be repaid through an assessment of drug companies.

"It is just completely baffling that Gov. Hogan would veto a bill which would pay back the state money and fund a really smart way to make prescription drugs more affordable," DeMarco said. "It seems he's taking the side of prescription-drug corporations against people who need their prescription drugs."

In a letter to General Assembly leaders, Hogan called the bill, and other revenue-raising bills he vetoed, "misguided," claiming they would raise taxes and fees on Marylanders, which would be "unconscionable" in the midst of a global pandemic and economic crash.

But DeMarco said Senate Bill 669 and House Bill 1095 would ultimately help folks save money. The bills would raise up to $2 million to fund the board through minimal fees from drug manufacturers and insurers of about $1,000 each, which he says they easily can afford.

He pointed out that the board will then use the money to hire researchers to investigate why drug prices have skyrocketed in an effort to bring them down.

"Twenty-five percent of Marylanders can't afford the prescription drugs they need. They have to choose between their drugs and their rent or their kids' college or so many other things," he said. "It makes no sense at a time when drug corporations spend a lot more on advertising than they do on research."

The Senate bill passed unanimously and the House bill was approved in a partisan vote - 98 Democrats to 36 Republicans. DeMarco is hopeful that when the General Assembly comes back into session, even if it's next January, an override will have full backing.


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