Governor Dan McKee, joined by House Speaker K. Joseph Shekarchi, Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio and bill sponsors Senator Melissa A. Murray, Representative Brian Patrick Kennedy, Senator Walter S. Felag, Representative Leonela Felix, and AARP Rhode Island State Director Catherine Taylor today held a ceremonial signing for two pieces of legislation that make prescription drugs more affordable for Rhode Islanders.
The first piece of legislation (2021-S 0170B, 2021-H 5196A) requires insurers to cap the total cost that covered patients’ pay for insulin at $40 for a 30-day supply. Under the legislation, that coverage cannot be subject to any deductible. The law does allow insurers to charge less than the $40 threshold. It takes effect January 1, 2022.
“Managing diabetes and other diseases and illnesses should not be a cost burden to Rhode Island families,” said Governor McKee. “It is past time that insulin and other life-saving medications are affordable and accessible to those who need them, but these pieces of legislation are about more than just cost – they are about public health. Giving Rhode Islanders options to save money on their prescriptions is the right thing to do. I thank the bill sponsors and all involved in bringing this legislation forward.”
“Insulin is both very widely used and absolutely critical to the lives of people with diabetes, many of whom are seniors or disabled people living on low fixed incomes. Unaffordable insulin costs are a serious threat to public health. According to the American Diabetes Association, about a third of the approximately 100,000 diabetes patients in Rhode Island use insulin, and a quarter of those patients ration their insulin. No one should have to choose between paying for their life-saving medication, keeping their lights on or having enough groceries,” said Sen. Murray (D-Dist. 24, Woonsocket, North Smithfield).
“This legislation will assist many Rhode Island families that have struggled with the cost burden of paying for food, shelter and other necessities or for insulin,” said Rep. Kennedy (D-Dist. 38, Hopkinton, Westerly). “That isn’t just cost-prohibitive for those who need the drug, it’s disastrous both financially and medically for those who need multiple doses of insulin every single day just to survive. A growing number of people cite affordability as the reason they ration their insulin, with some reports of deaths due to insulin rationing. According to recent statistics, 7.9 percent of adults in Rhode Island have been diagnosed with diabetes, making this a widespread tragedy.”
The second bill (2021-S 0497A, 2021-H 6477A) prohibits clauses in pharmacy contracts that prevent pharmacists from offering customers more affordable prescription options. It states that a plan sponsor, health insurance carrier, or pharmacy benefit manager cannot prohibit pharmacists from telling insured customers how much they will pay for a prescription drug. The legislation also prohibits a pharmacy or pharmacist from being penalized for offering a lower-priced drug to customers.
“This bill is a patient and consumer protection bill that will allow our residents to save crucial dollars on their prescription medications. It is simply unfair that our state’s pharmacists are sometimes not allowed to discuss cheaper available prescription and treatment options with their customers. Thankfully, this bill removes this onerous gag order on our pharmacists, letting them serve their customers as they should while also saving consumers much-needed dollars,” said Sen. Felag (D-Dist. 10, Warren, Bristol, Tiverton).
“Pharmacists should be helping their customers get healthy at the lowest cost possible, not protecting profits of drug and insurance companies. This bill gives consumers the information they need to make the best cost-effective decisions concerning their prescription drugs,” said Rep. Felix (D-Dist. 61, Pawtucket).
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