Murray drug affordability bill signed into law


STATE HOUSE — Gov. Dan McKee held a ceremonial signing this week for two pieces of legislation that make prescription drugs more affordable for Rhode Islanders, including one sponsored by Sen. Mellissa Murray, a Democrat representing District 24 in Woonsocket and North Smithfield.

Murray’s bill, 2021-S 0170B, and corresponding House bill 2021-H 5196A, require 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.

“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,” said Murray. “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.”

“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. Brian Kennedy, a sponsor of the House bill. “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 Senate bill was cosponsored by Sen. Majority Leader Michael McCaffrey; Sen. Health and Human Services Committee Chairman Joshua Miller; Sen. Majority Whip Maryellen Goodwin; and Sens. Tiara Mack; Valarie Lawson; Meghan Kallman; Samuel Bell; Bridget Valverde and Gayle Goldin.

McKee also signed a second bill – 2021-S 0497A2021-H 6477A – that 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.  

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