By Representative Rob Nosse

The Case for HB 2387

Many of you are probably aware of news stories about the rising cost of prescription drugs that seem to go up for no obvious reason.  Maybe you even know someone who is having trouble affording their medications.  The hefty price increases are not just limited to drugs that are new or in the “specialty tier” either. Right now we have the most expensive insulin in the world. This drug, which is used by millions of Americans, has seen an increase of 445% over seven years, from $220 to $1200 per bottle.

Over the last year and a half, I have been chairing a monthly workgroup, composed of representatives from across the healthcare industry to try to get at this problem.  The work group was made up of advocates from the pharmaceutical industry, insurance companies, and patient groups in the hopes of crafting legislation to make prescription drugs more affordable.

This is not an easy problem to solve.  The group had the difficult task of creating legislation that would meet three criteria:

• Doing something to help patients save money and reduce their costs.

• Doing something that does not cause the overall premium to rise.

• Getting drug manufactures to be more reasonable about what they charge.

House Bill 2387 addresses those three points. It’s a very aggressive bill, the first of its kind, and it is absolutely what is needed.

The bill does three things;

• It calls for transparency about what drives the costs of pharmaceutical companies as well as the coupons and patient assistance they offer, so that consumers gain some insight into why drugs are priced the way they are.

•  It puts a dollar amount – the co-pay cap, on what consumers have to pay for each 30-day prescription of $100.

• It creates a rebate system. If a drug manufacturer charges a price higher than the average cost charged among the member nations of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the difference between that average cost and what is charged in Oregon is rebated to the insurers. This is so premiums won’t increase as much under the co-pay cap.

This bill is not without its detractors. Not surprisingly, drug manufacturers oppose a bill that would put limits on what they charge, but the fact is our current system where drug makers can charge essentially whatever they want is not sustainable.

Some of the worst days in the healthcare committee are when Oregonians come in and literally empty their purses with receipts for drugs they need in order to continue functioning, and tell us how they have to choose between paying for their prescriptions and paying for food, or gas for their car that they take to work.

I find it unconscionable that there are those who would say that this is simply the market working as intended when people are choosing between their health and their financial security for a drug that was only a fraction of the price a few years ago. Putting limits on what patients pay, and what drug companies can charge, will safeguard consumers, so a trip to the pharmacy doesn’t break the bank.

As of writing this, HB 2387 comes up for a hearing on March 3. I’m looking forward to hearing arguments from all the sides of this problem.  Maybe we can continue to refine this bill so that all the parties can live with it.

With that said, what matters most to me is that patients receive protections long overdue.