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Health Care Financing Committee to Hear Health Reform and Pharma Bills Tomorrow

Health Care Financing Committee to Hear Health Reform and Pharma Bills Tomorrow

May 5, 2009

The Joint Committee on Health Care Financing will hold a public hearing tomorrow, Wednesday, May 6th at 1:00pm in Hearing Room A-1 of State House. Pharmaceutical, public health and elder and long term care bills will be heard. The ACT!! Coalition and the Massachusetts Prescription Reform Coalition will be weighing in on several bills to voice our strong support or opposition.

Sponsored by Senator Downing, S. 539, An Act Relative to Health Care Outreach and Enrollment, would make the Health Care Reform Outreach and Education Unit and the MassHealth Outreach Grant program permanent. The ACT!! Coalition enthusiastically supports this bill as it would ensure that Massachusetts residents get help navigating the health care system and retaining coverage. The MassHealth Outreach Grant program is essential to realizing the promise of health reform. During this time of economic uncertainty it is more important than ever that Massachusetts residents can count on skilled outreach workers to connect them to coverage and care. For more information about this bill and to get involved contact Suzanne Curry at scurry@hcfama.org.

The ACT!! Coalition is strongly opposing four bills that would remove prescription drug coverage from minimum creditable coverage (MCC) standards. S. 526/H. 1106, An Act Relative to Prescription Drug Coverage; S. 591, An Act Relative to Mandatory Prescription Drug Coverage; and S. 542, An Act Relative to Creditable Coverage threaten to unravel the success of health reform by leaving residents without coverage for their basic health needs. Medications are critically important in treating and preventing illness but are prohibitively expensive for most people. Without prescription drug coverage people are unlikely to be able to afford the medications they need. ACT!! commends the Connector for maintaining prescription drug coverage in MCC standards and hopes that the Legislature will guarantee access to medication for everyone in the Commonwealth. For more information about these bills and to get involved contact Catherine Hammons at chammons@hcfama.org.

H. 1080, An Act Relative to Manufacturers Coupons and Rebates, is also being heard at this hearing. This bill would allow pharmaceutical companies to market their products through manufacturer coupons. These coupons usually apply to new-to-market, brand-name medications that cost significantly more than generics. Industry argues that this is a consumer-friendly policy that helps defray health care costs. In actuality, the opposite is true. Coupons do not benefit consumers. Rather they force consumers onto higher cost, brand-name medications with much higher cost-sharing for the consumer and the payer. As aptly put by Rep. Malia during last week’s budget debate, “this has been a motherload for pharmaceuticals. It has increased our health care costs. This would be the absolutely wrong step to take.” This issue was most recently debated last week as a budget amendment filed by Rep. Sullivan. The House voted down this amendment 108-48 with Rep. Donato saying, “Forty-nine other states do not have the health care plan the Massachusetts has.... If a patient is on a generic drug, instead of Lipitor, the plan under GIC is $7. If it’s Lipitor, it’s $20. If the doctor is going to provide you with a coupon for $10, it’s only going to cost $10 on the first go around. But it’s only a matter of time before the cost escalates to the point where the ten dollar coupon will negate the savings that were there. I hope the amendment does not pass.”

The Massachusetts Prescription Reform Coalition is supporting S. 547, An Act Making Technical Corrections to Health Care Practitioner and Pharmaceutical and Medical Device Manufacturer Conduct, which seeks to make technical corrections to Chapter 305, last year's cost and quality bill. S. 547 clarifies Chapter 305 and provides a complete gift ban and disclosure requirement for the pharmaceutical and medical device industries. This bill will close some of the loopholes in the existing regulations recently promulgated by the Department of Public Health. Specifically, the disclosure requirement includes all payments, fees, and gifts given to prescribers in Massachusetts including research. To learn more contact Georgia Maheras at gmaheras@hcfama.org.

We urge all organizations and individuals to express your concern or support for the bills being heard tomorrow. We look forward to seeing everyone tomorrow afternoon!

We will be tweeting this event at twitter.com/HCFA