AUGUSTA, Maine — Two bills that an Aroostook County senator said would have lowered the cost of prescription drugs in Maine by requiring state agencies to pay the same or lower prices than the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs were effectively killed in committee on Monday.
Submitted by Sen. Michael Carpenter, D-Houlton, one bill, LD 655, “An Act to Lower the Price MaineCare Pays for Prescription Drugs,” required the commissioner of Maine Health and Human Services to negotiate the lowest price for all prescription drugs for programs under MaineCare, unless prohibited by federal law. The second bill, LD 652, “An Act to Provide Drug Price Relief,” would have mandated that state agencies pay the same or lower prices than the VA, which Carpenter said receives a discounted price on prescription drugs from drug manufacturers.
Both bills were voted “ought not to pass” by the Legislature’s Health and Human Services members during a work session on Monday.
Carpenter told committee members during public hearings on the bill on April 24 that lowering the price of prescription drugs was necessary to protect working families.
“Drug corporations and their lobbyists will argue that the sky will fall if they are forced to sell prescriptions at lower prices, but the simple fact is price gouging is more profitable than protecting working class people and seniors,” he said. “Drug prices in Maine and around the country are far too high and out of reach for many families.”
The senator had the support of the Maine Alliance of Retired Americans, Maine State Nurses Association and the Maine AFL-CIO.
But he faced significant opposition from members of the state Department of Health and Human Services, who opposed both bills. Stefanie Nadeau, director of MaineCare services, told lawmakers that Mainecare is a member of a purchasing pool that already is negotiating the lowest cost available for prescription drugs.
A representative from the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America also opposed both bills, and officials from the Maine Veterans Home opposed certain wording in LD 652, fearing it would restrict pharmacy operations and hamstring abilities to provide care to veterans and non-veteran residents alike.