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Prescription drug affordability proposal stalls in Illinois House committee

Prescription Drug Affordability

Springfield, IL - Rep. Will Guzzardi (D-Chicago) was prepared to move his prescription drug affordability plan out of committee Wednesday. But a Democratic leader joined Republicans on the committee to vote against the proposal.

"Drugs don't work if people can't afford them," said advocates filling a committee room to hear the debate on House Bill 3493. Rep. Guzzardi has been fighting to create a Prescription Drug Affordability Board to analyze costs of common medications, since first introducing the plan last year.

"When 25% of people in the state of Illinois are skipping their prescriptions because they can't afford them, that's not 3 million individual problems," Guzzardi said. "That is a systemic and structural problem that requires and systemic and structural solution."

The proposed board would consist of five individuals appointed by the Governor with advice and approval from the Senate. Board members would need a background in healthcare economics and clinical medicine. A separate Prescription Drug Affordability Stakeholder Council would consist of 25 members appointed by the Governor and each of the legislative leaders. That group would bring together healthcare advocates, prescription drug researchers, doctors, nurses, and pharmaceutical representatives among others. This Council would help the Affordability Board members make decisions on upper price limits for prescription drugs.

"A false perception"

Guzzardi gained support for his proposal over the last week, but one of the longest-serving members of the House said she couldn't support the plan. "There's too many people out here that are really depending on us to do something and this is a false perception," exclaimed Rep. Mary Flowers (D-Chicago). "I'm not going to play those games. I'm not going to do it."

Rep. Flowers shared concerns with Republicans that feel the board would never be able to negotiate prices with Big Pharma companies.

"This board - the way in which it is proposed and constructed - will not function," Rep. Deanne Mazzochi (R-Elmhurst) said. "If this board is lucky, it can maybe get through one company's drug and pricing information for one year if they choose to share it."

The proposal failed to pass on a vote of 8-5-1. Still, advocates say they will continue to work with Flowers to show her why the plan should pass in the future.

"We have to convince her that we're doing everything we can to advance the best possible bill we can," Citizen Action Illinois Director William McNary explained. "We think if we can do that, Representative Flowers will be with us."

This was the second time Rep. Guzzardi's proposal failed to get out of committee. His proposal was met with a 8-8 vote on March 27, 2019. Meanwhile, the sponsor says there is still plenty of time left in session to discuss lowering drug prices for residents.

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Mike Miletich

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