Last month, Governor Phil Murphy signed legislation (A2431) to limit out-of-pocket prescription drug expenses for New Jersey families. The bill, which requires health insurers to provide plans that limit patient cost-sharing concerning prescription drug coverage, will improve affordability and access for those who require necessary medication.
“Few issues have a greater financial impact on New Jersey families than the unpredictable and ever-increasing cost of prescription drugs,” said Governor Murphy in a Jan. 21 statement announcing the new law. “Cost-sharing too often presents a barrier to a patient’s ability to access medically-necessary treatments. This legislation will improve the affordability of medical care for many residents who unfortunately must make sacrifices in order to pay for their required medications,”he said.
Primary sponsors of the legislation include Assemblymembers Daniel Benson, Angelica Jimenez, BettyLou DeCroce, and Tim Eustace, and Senators Loretta Weinberg and Thomas Kean, Jr.
“Now more than ever, the need for this law is critical,” said Assemblyman Benson. “Increasingly, health plans are imposing a serious financial burden on patients whose diseases and conditions are treated by so-called ‘specialty’ medications. That burden usually comes in the form of coinsurance, which can leave enrollees of health care plans left to pay thousands of dollars for one month’s supply of a specialty medication. It is absolutely unacceptable that nearly every health plan available on the Healthcare.gov marketplace features copayments of between 40-50 percent for ‘specialty’ medications which are life-sustaining drugs for those who take them. We can and will do better for the people of New Jersey,” he said.
“Many of the individuals who face high copayments, coinsurance or deductibles are already suffering with difficult and expensive health issues,” adds Assemblywoman Jimenez. “Some of these individuals, although they have insurance, cannot afford the exorbitant out-of-pocket expenses them for their much-needed prescription medications. We can do more to help residents with prescription costs with this new law,” she said.
“The state of our current health care system is untenable. Health insurance loses its value if the doctor prescribed medication is unaffordable. For patients with chronic conditions in particular, out-of-pocket costs can range into the thousands of dollars each month, putting both their health and their livelihood in jeopardy,” said Senator Weinberg. “This law, however, is going to improve affordability and therefore access to vital medication, says the state senator.
Push to Pass Senate Bipartisan Bill to Lower Prescription Costs
At a recent news conference in Trenton, AARP New Jersey urged the U.S. Senate to support a bipartisan proposal to lower prescription drug costs. H.R. 3, which passed in the House late last year, would allow Medicare to negotiate lower drug prices, set an annual out-of-pocket cap for seniors in Medicare Part D, and crack down on relentless drug price increases by pharmaceutical companies.
AARP New Jersey Associate State Director for Advocacy Crystal McDonald, said: “We commend House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (1st) and New Jersey Reps. Bonnie Watson Coleman (12th), Frank Pallone (6th) and Donald Norcross for their efforts to lower prescription drug prices and for participating in a roundtable with advocates and consumers in New Jersey.”
At the February 28th event, the House Speaker and the attending New Jersey congressman heard from New Jersey residents who shared their personal stories about struggling to afford their necessary prescription medications. “Too many Americans are forced to choose between filling life-saving prescriptions and paying rent, buying food and affording other critical essentials. In 2017, nearly one in four New Jersey residents stopped taking prescription medication as prescribed due to cost. And prices continue to increase,” said McDonald.
McDonald urges that lowering prescription drug prices be placed high on the Senate’s agenda this year. “It is critical that prescription drug legislation includes meaningful reform to lower prices – rather than shifting costs around in the system. We need to attack the root of the problem – high prices set by drug manufacturers – if we want to provide sustainable relief to older Americans,” she says.