Fighting Back Against Unaffordable Drug Prices at the State and Federal Level

By Jill Zorn |

On March 21, 2019, Universal Health Care Foundation of Connecticut joined with eleven other national and state-based groups to launch The Coalition for Fair Drug Prices.

Composed of a diverse array of organizations that include consumer advocacy groups, labor unions and health care providers, the coalition is pushing for bold legislative action to address outrageous prescription drugs costs.

The coalition’s statement of principles highlights the need to get at the root cause of the problem, the unchecked power of drug manufacturers to charge shockingly high prices and continuously increase them.  To that end, the first priority issue for the group at the federal level will be to focus on empowering Medicare to negotiate drug prices.

National advocacy organizations, including Families USA, Community Catalyst, Center for American Progress and Public Citizen are members of the coalition, as are two labor unions: the AFL CIO and SEIU. In addition to the Foundation, two other state groups are participating: Maryland Citizens’ Health Initiative and Health Access California; both known for leading campaigns to pass breakthrough prescription drug legislation in their states.

Connecticut General Assembly Legislation

Here in Connecticut, the Foundation has been working hard to address unaffordable prescription drugs.  The General Assembly passed legislation two years in a row, including last year’s transparency bill.

There are two key bills we are supporting in this year’s legislative session.

  • HB 7174, An Act Concerning Prescription Drugs

The bill would authorize the State Comptroller to allow municipalities and self-insured companies to contract with the state employee health plan’s Pharmacy Benefit Manager (PBM).  This would allow them to benefit from the lower prices negotiated by the health plan.  The Comptroller’s office could allow uninsured and under-insured individuals who are paying out of pocket for their prescriptions to buy them at the price negotiated by the state employee health plan.  Read more about this bill with our fact sheet.

  • HB 6096, An Act Limiting Changes to Prescription Drug Formularies and Lists of Covered Drugs.

This bill would stop insurance companies from changing their formularies mid-year if it would make a drug more expensive to members.

Connecticut Residents Need Action

A 2018 poll found that 50% of people who get insurance from their employer and 64% of people who buy their own coverage are worried about affording their prescription drugs.  And 20% of people are cutting pills in half, skipping doses and/or not filling prescriptions at all due to cost.

What’s more Connecticut residents strongly support taking action, across party lines.

It will take a strong advocacy effort, at both the state and federal level, to go up against Big Pharma’s lobbying power.  But working with our state and national partners, we plan to keep fighting!