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Ben Jealous releases plan aimed at curbing prescription drug costs

The Baltimore Sun
September 18, 2018
Luke Broadwater
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ben Jealous on Monday a released a new plan aimed at curbing prescription drug costs in Maryland.

Called a “New Rx For Maryland,” Jealous’ plan proposes creating a prescription drug affordability board to hold pharmaceutical companies accountable for rising costs and “ensure Marylanders are not subject to sharp increases.”

“Marylanders desperately need relief from skyrocketing prescription drug and healthcare costs, and not nearly enough is being done to hold pharmaceutical companies accountable,” Jealous said.

His plan also calls for driving down costs by allowing reimportation of prescription drugs so that Marylanders can access prescriptions at cheaper rates from Canada and instituting a drug spending cap for Medicaid, which the Jealous campaign says has helped New York achieve $958 million in savings last year.

Vincent DeMarco, president of the Maryland Citizens’ Health Initiative, praised Jealous’ pledge to support a new state watchdog for prescription drugs — an initiative advocates have been pushing for.

“Too many Marylanders simply cannot afford the medications they need to lead healthy lives, and it’s time to fix this,” DeMarco said. “Our bill would create a Prescription Drug Affordability Board that would establish fair and affordable costs for Marylanders to pay for prescription drugs. Ben Jealous recognizes that our current system doesn’t work for average Marylanders, and we thank him for his support.”

DeMarco also urged Jealous’ opponent, Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, to support a drug affordability board.

Also Monday, officials with the state’s Democratic Party released documents they said show Hogan and the Republican Governors Association — which has been running attack ads against Jealous — are too cozy with big pharmaceutical companies.

The documents show the RGA received $1.4 million from pharmaceutical companies during the first half of 2017. They also show that Hogan raised legal concerns about a Democratic-backed bill opposed by the industry to give the attorney general powers to sue drug manufacturers that dramatically raise prices, before letting it become law without his signature.

“For the past four years, Democrats in the legislature have been fighting to make healthcare in Maryland more affordable for working families, and Governor Hogan has repeatedly stood with the pharmaceutical drug industry, instead of the people,” said Maryland Democratic Party chair Kathleen Matthews.

The Hogan campaign responded by detailing nearly $5 million in contributions from pharmaceutical companies to the Democratic Governors Association during 2017 and 2018.

Amelia Chasse, a spokeswoman for the governor, said Hogan defied the pharmaceutical industry when he allowed the bill in question to become law.

“The pharmaceutical industry wanted the governor to veto the bill. He did not,” Chasse said. “When the governor allowed the bill to go into law he raised potential legal issues, which were validated when a federal court recently ruled the law to be unconstitutional. The governor has and will continue to pursue policy ideas to address this important issue, and make healthcare more affordable for Marylanders.”