Bill would seek to reduce drug costs for Mainers by setting limits on price
A pair of bills before the Maine Legislature aims to reduce prescription drug costs.
Both bills from Sen. Cameron Reny, D-Lincoln, and Rep. Anne Perry, D-Calais, would tie prices to the maximum amount insurers can charge for a drug to the reference-based price under Medicare. Drug manufacturers would not be allowed to stop selling that drug in the state to avoid the rule. Violators would be fined by the state.
The Inflation Reduction Act gave Medicare the ability to negotiate the prices of some medications. The first set of negotiated prices will be published next year.
Kate End of Consumers for Affordable Health Care told members of the Legislature's health insurance committee on Monday that those saving could be lifechanging for Mainers.
"Too often we hear from Mainers through our helpline who are struggling to afford the drugs they need, some of which are forced to make very difficult choices between paying for medicine and being able to provide for their families and put food on the table or gas in their tank," she said.
The bill carves out an exception for sponsors of health care plans that meet certain qualifications under the federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974.
Pharmaceutical associations and insurers opposed the bill , calling it unconstitutional. They say Maine does not have the authority to punish companies outside the state.
Nolan Reichl of the firm Pierce Atwood, who was representing the biopharmaceutical research group PhRMA, said the legislation could ultimately restrict the kinds of drugs available to Mainers. He said it had "constitutional defects" similar to a 2021 bill ultimately vetoed by Gov. Janet Mills.
"So all the time and effort that went into enacting it and all of the work that went into assessing it will have been for naught because the legislation will ultimately not be effective," he said.
The bills have the backing of the Legislature's top Democrats, including Maine Senate President Troy Jackson and Maine House Speaker Rachel Talbot Ross.