House bill would protect patients from increased prescription drug costs

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Congressman A. Donald McEachin (VA-04), Congressman Rodney Davis (IL-13), and Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12) introduced a bipartisan bill to protect patients from increased out-of-pocket prescription drug costs during the COVID-19 pandemic. H.R. 7647, the Preserving Patient Savings on Drug Costs Act, stops insurers from instituting costly copay accumulator programs by delaying the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) 2021 Notice of Benefit and Payment Parameter (NBPP) rule from going into effect until a year after the COVID-19 public health emergency has lifted.

“Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle agree: there shouldn’t be additional barriers to access lifesaving and much-needed prescription drugs, especially in the middle of a pandemic,” said Congressman McEachin. “As households across the country continue to navigate the COVID-19 crisis, we must do more to support those who depend on copay assistance to offset soaring prices at the pharmacy counter and ensure prescriptions remain accessible to all patients who need them.”

“Making prescription drugs more affordable for everyone is one of my top priorities and a bipartisan goal shared by our fellow lawmakers in Congress,” said Rep. Davis. “Patients should not face even more financial barriers to receiving the drugs they need to stay healthy, especially during this pandemic, and particularly for those with chronic conditions who are vulnerable to COVID-19. I’m proud to join Congressman McEachin and Congresswoman Watson Coleman in introducing this bipartisan legislation so we can provide financial relief and promote the health of patients while this pandemic continues.”

“In a time where the cost of lifesaving and critical medications are a challenge for so many families, we can’t afford to remove one way that consumers can keep their costs down,” said Rep. Watson Coleman. “We’re in the midst of a pandemic, with families who’ve lost work and are struggling just to make ends meet. Now is not the time to add new healthcare costs to their plates, and I’m proud to work alongside my colleagues to make sure we fix this.”

Historically, when a patient has utilized cost-sharing assistance at the pharmacy counter, the amount has counted towards a patient’s deductible and maximum out-of-pocket limit, thereby lowering patient’s overall out-of-pocket spending.

In June, HHS Secretary Alex M. Azar, II finalized the 2021 NBPP rule, reversing that policy and allowing health insurers to omit certain prescription drug coupons from counting toward a patient’s deductible and out-of-pocket limit.

The AIDS Institute recently released a report showing that health plans on the individual market in 33 states and the District of Columbia have widespread use of copay accumulators, reinforcing that the proposed changes would lead to increased financial burdens on patients across the United States.

The Preserving Patients Savings on Drug Costs Act would delay the 2021 NBPP rule until a year after the COVID-19 health emergency is lifted, allowing more time for patient input and discussion on the negative impact of copay accumulator programs.

“Now is not the time to allow insurance companies and pharmacy benefit managers to make it harder for people to get the medications they need to stay healthy.

The COVID-19 pandemic is already increasing financial stress for millions; people living with and at risk of HIV, hepatitis and other chronic conditions cannot face additional cost burdens for accessing their medications,” says Rachel Klein, deputy director of The AIDS Institute. “This legislation is extremely important to ensure that patients who are most vulnerable to COVID-19 are not put at even greater risk to their health or their financial security.”

The legislation builds on a March letter led by Reps. McEachin, Davis, Watson Coleman and Joyce signed by more than 70 Members of Congress to Secretary Azar expressing strong opposition to the 2021 NBPP rule.

“We thank Reps. McEachin and Davis for their continued leadership on this issue. They continue to be a strong voice for patients living with chronic conditions in Congress, and we encourage other Members of Congress to sign on as cosponsors of this legislation,” says Michael Ruppal, executive director of The AIDS Institute.


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