Murray sponsors bills aimed at controlling prescription costs, protecting health care access

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STATE HOUSE – Sen. Melissa Murray has introduced several bills aimed at reducing the high costs of prescription drugs and protecting access to health care for everyone.

“There is no excuse for making the necessities of health care prohibitively expensive or denying them to patients because of who they are,” said Murray, a Democrat representing District 24 in Woonsocket and North Smithfield. “Corporate greed cannot be allowed to dictate access to health care. These bills are aimed at reining in some of the most egregious examples so that Rhode Islanders have reasonable access to the critical health resources they need.”

Murray has introduced legislation to limit insured patients’ copays for equipment and supplies used to treat diabetes to $25 for 30-day supply, or per item for items intended to last longer than 30 days.

Like the 2021 state law – also sponsored by Murray – that capped insulin copays at $40 a month, the legislation would apply to private insurers, health maintenance organizations, nonprofit hospital service or medical service corporations and the state employee health insurance plans. Under the bill, beginning Jan. 1; or, for state employees, the next time the health plan contract is purchased or renewed by the state; copays for insulin administration and glucose monitoring supplies shall be capped at $25 for a 30-day supply, or per item when an item is intended to be used for longer than 30 days.

She has introduced another bill that would limit the total an insured person is required to pay for a covered prescription asthma inhaler to $25 for a 30-day supply.

“Diabetes and asthma are both life-threatening conditions,” said Murray. “When people can’t afford the prescriptions or the supplies for treatment and preventive maintenance, unfortunately they have no choice but to go without. Insurance is meant to protect people from situations where high costs prevent them from maintaining their health. If medications are not affordable, they are not accessible for all.”

A third bill – 2023-S 0563 – requires insurance coverage for effective drugs that help prevent transmission of human immunodeficiency virus. The legislation would require insurance plans to cover the treatment with pre-exposure prophylaxis for the prevention of HIV and post-exposure prophylaxis for treatment of HIV infection, commencing January 1, 2024, without out-of-pocket costs.

“PrEP can reduce the chances of HIV transmission to almost zero,” said Murray. “However, PrEP is very expensive for people who are uninsured or underinsured. Because the medication is preventative, an at-risk patient with lower income may choose to prioritize other expenses, putting them at a much higher HIV risk. By reducing those high copayments and deductibles, we can help ensure patients get the treatment they need, and prevent the spread of HIV.”

Additionally, Murray is sponsoring legislation that expands patients’ protections against discrimination by health care facilities. The legislation states that patients not be denied appropriate care on the basis of age, sex, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, race, color, marital status, familial status, disability, religion, national origin, source of income, source of payment or profession. Currently, the law states only that patients, “shall be offered treatment without discrimination as to race, color, religion, national origin, or source of payment.”

“Everyone deserves access to health care. No one should be turned away or face fear of judgement for seeking the health care they need because of who they are. Protecting against discrimination is a matter of equity and public health,” Murray said.

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