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Governor’s Address: No one should have to choose between food, fuel, and medicine

In 2017, the retail prices of some of the most widely prescribed medications that older Americans take to treat everything from diabetes to high blood pressure increased by an average of 8.4 percent – four times the rate of inflation.

Nationwide, one in four Americans struggles to pay for their prescription medication, while one in ten simply do not take their medicine as prescribed because of the high costs.

No one should have to choose between food, fuel, and medicine.

Earlier this week, I signed into law a comprehensive prescription drug reform package. These four new laws will allow the wholesale importation of prescription medicine, create a prescription drug affordability board, increase drug price transparency, and better regulate pharmacy benefit managers – those middle men that you know about.

I signed LD 1272, “An Act to Increase Access to Low-Cost Prescription Drugs,” sponsored by Senate President Troy Jackson. Upon approval from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, it will establish a wholesale prescription drug importation program. Now you may ask: “Will the Feds approve this?” Well, the President has said publicly that he would support similar measures in other states, like Florida and Colorado, so we’re counting on him to do it for Maine, too.

I also signed LD 1499, “An Act to Establish the Maine Prescription Drug Affordability Board,” also sponsored by President Jackson. This will create a board to develop strategies to lower prescription drug costs, including bulk purchasing, multi-state purchasing, and/or rebates.

I signed LD 1162, “An Act to Further Expand Drug Price Transparency,” sponsored by Assistant Senate Majority Leader Eloise Vitelli. This will gather data to help us understand how the costs of development, advertising, and profits affect prescription drug pricing for consumers. This bill adds to previous legislation that I worked on with Senator Vitelli when I was Attorney General and that became law last year.

And I signed LD 1504, “An Act to Protect Consumers from Unfair Practices Related to Pharmacy Benefits Management,” sponsored by Senator Heather Sanborn of Portland. This will prohibit pharmacy benefit managers from keeping rebates paid by manufacturers and will require those rebates to be passed along to consumers in Maine or to the health plan.

These four bills all got overwhelmingly bipartisan support in committee and on the floors of the House and Senate. I am very pleased with this bipartisan cooperation to address high drug prices in Maine.

This issue is personal to me. When my husband, Stan, suffered a stroke – which ultimately took him from us a year later – I learned an awful lot about the health care system in Maine.

We were lucky; we had insurance. But dealing with co-pays, deductibles, and the high cost of prescription drugs, all while fighting the insurance companies, is a challenge for all of us.

Health care coverage should not be a luxury or a privilege reserved for the well-to-do. It is a human right.

I am proud that Maine is taking a major step forward in ensuring affordable, accessible health care for every Mainer – including every small business, every entrepreneur, every self-employed person, and every family across the state.

I want to thank Senate President Jackson, Assistant Majority Leader Vitelli, Senator Sanborn, Senator Foley, Representative Dwayne Prescott, the AARP, and so many others for their hard work on this very important issue.

Thank you.

Janet Mills

Governor

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