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MD Groups Urge Override of Drug Affordability Bill Veto

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Wednesday, February 3, 2021   

ANNAPOLIS, Md. - A coalition is urging Maryland's General Assembly to override Gov. Larry Hogan's veto of a bill to fund a first-in-the-nation state board to make high-cost prescription drugs more affordable. The bill would be a boon for folks age 65 and older, who sometimes have a hard time paying for their prescriptions.

Hank Greenberg, state director of AARP Maryland, said his group has co-sponsored a blitz of radio ads to push for the override. He said more than 80% of its 860,000 members support funding the board.

"Drug companies' skyrocketing prices are putting life-saving treatment out of reach for far too many, especially older Marylanders," he said, "and what's more, these outrageously high prices affect all Marylanders by raising taxes, premiums and out-of-pocket costs for everybody."

He said the median annual income for Maryland retirees is about $26,000.

Opponents of Senate Bill 669 have said lowering drug prices would stop companies from developing new, lifesaving drugs. Last month, the state Senate voted to override the veto, and the House vote is expected soon.

Established by the General Assembly in 2019, the five-member board is authorized to study why prescription-drug prices are so high. By 2023, it would recommend how to bring prices down and regulate them.

Baltimore County Executive John Olszewski pointed out that one in four Baltimore residents are age 60 or older, and said he thinks the bill would improve their quality of life.

"We know that there are millions of Marylanders that can't afford the medicine they need, and that even healthy families often feel the effects of high drug prices," he said. "So, no one should have to choose between paying for their medicines and paying for things like groceries, gas, or any other necessities."

According to a Kaiser Family Foundation study, about three in 10 adults report not taking their medications at some point in the past year because of the cost.

Maryland's board would be funded by raising $2 million a year through assessments from drug manufacturers, insurers and other industry groups, requiring no funding from taxpayers or the state budget.

Disclosure: AARP Maryland contributes to our fund for reporting on Budget Policy & Priorities, Energy Policy, Health Issues, Senior Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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