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This week’s edition!

Working to lower medication costs

Guest Column

By Sen. Claxton

Sen. Ned Claxton (D-Androscoggin), Maine District 20, Auburn, Mechanic Falls, Minot, New Gloucester, and Poland (Photo courtesy of Sen. Claxton)

If you’ve read my previous columns, you probably know that one of the main reasons I chose to run for office was my desire to help fix our broken health care system. As a family physician practicing in the greater Auburn area, I had long been upset and frustrated by the ways in which folks struggled to get the care they needed solely because of cost. I’ve had patients skip taking their medication that I prescribed to them, use up their life savings for medical procedures and fear going to a doctor because of how much it might cost. As a health care professional doing the best I could for my patients, it was always painful that despite the best intentions of me and my patient, there were barriers that stood in the way of good care.

When I was first elected to the Senate, I was glad to see that I wasn’t alone in my desire to help make prescription medications more affordable and to increase access to health care. I found my new colleagues on both sides of the aisle were willing and eager to work together and address these issues that far too many Mainers experience on a daily basis. In 2019, we worked together and passed a suite of legislation with bipartisan support, that was aimed at making medications more affordable for Mainers and getting to the root causes of these out-of-control costs. While we were proud of our successes, we knew we had more work to do. Prior to the pandemic forcing us to adjourn in 2020, we passed additional bills to crack down on corporate greed with our “Patients First” plan. I sponsored a bill in the plan to prohibit unnecessary fees that folks are forced to pay in their medical bills, and it is now law.

We are coming out of a very trying time with the pandemic, and we are not letting the lessons learned from it go by the wayside.

The past 15 months have exposed further inequities in our health care system that need to be addressed, and we have once again taken action. We introduced our Making Health Care Work for Maine package of bills, and now, all five have been passed by a legislative committee and are headed for votes before the full Legislature. The package includes LD 686, which would strengthen transparency laws around prescription drug pricing; LD 120, which would create the Office of Affordable Health Care and make sure that there are folks who can examine and identify indiscriminate price increases; LD 673, which would create a lifesaving insulin safety net program; and finally, LD 675, which I sponsored, and LD 1117, which both aim to crack down on out-of-control prescription drug costs.

I am confident we can pass this entire package in the Senate in the coming days as our legislative session wraps up. These are important bills that will make a real difference in Mainers’ lives, and I am proud of our efforts. Passing effective legislation at the state level that targets prescription drugs and health care costs can be challenging; we are limited in the scope of laws we can pass, and therefore we need to be creative and pull every lever at our disposal. However, the alternative is waiting for the federal government to take action, or hoping that Big Pharma decides they no longer need their massive profits. I’m not sure about you, but I’m not willing to hang my hat on either of those things happening. That’s why I vow to continue doing all I can in Augusta while I am serving as your State Senator.

If you have any questions, comments or concerns, you can send me an email at Ned.Claxton@legislature.maine.gov or call my office at 287-1515.

Sen. Ned Claxton (D-Androscoggin) represents Maine Senate District 20, which includes Auburn, Mechanic Falls, Minot, New Gloucester, and Poland.

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