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Lawmakers renew push for Prescription Drug Affordability Board

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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - One in four Illinois residents skipped filling a prescription last year because they couldn't afford it. That's according to state lawmakers who are working on a plan to cap the prices of prescription drugs. Rep. Will Guzzardi (D-Chicago) is pushing for a proposal he introduced last year that would create a Drug Affordability Board of five experts to review prescription costs. The board would study the operations of the generic drug market and analyze the impact drug prices have on yearly insurance premium changes.

"The board will evaluate the evidence - the cost currently of the drug, how much people are able to afford to pay for the drug - and weighing all that evidence they would say all payers in Illinois should not pay more than X for this prescription," Guzzardi said Tuesday.

The sponsor says drug manufacturers are making record profits while families struggle to get the medicines they need. Guzzardi says House Bill 3493 is the solution to set "upper payment limits" for every payer in the state. He says it is a great way to cap the costs on prescription drugs.

"When we talked to people across the state of Illinois, Democrats and Republicans, upstate and downstate, folks said we need government to take action to protect us from these price increases. When we asked them do you think we should create a board that regulates these cost increases to hold prices down for you, 90% of Democrats and 80% of Republicans said they thought this was a great idea," Guzzardi explained.

The recent Consumer Healthcare Experience State Survey compiled answers from over 1,000 Illinois residents. Guzzardi says 81% of those polled are worried about the future cost of healthcare. Sen. Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill), joining Guzzardi as the bill's sponsor in the Senate, says the costs have gotten out of control and something needs to change.

"We don't have to accept this system in the United States of America," Manar said. "We can change it and that's where the bill in the House comes in and the Representative is exactly right. This is good news."

Guzzardi mentioned the proposal has been amended to address feedback he received from other lawmakers and interest groups over the last year. He says the 25 member Prescription Drug Affordability Stakeholder Council would also be created through this plan. The Governor and each of the four legislative leaders would have the ability to appoint five members to the council. This diverse group would include healthcare advocates, health services researchers and representatives from labor unions along with doctors, nurses and health insurers.

Mike Miletich

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