Home Youngkin talked ‘big game’ about reining in costs; lobbyists say he chose big PhRMA
Health, Politics, Virginia

Youngkin talked ‘big game’ about reining in costs; lobbyists say he chose big PhRMA

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A bipartisan bill to create a Prescription Drug Affordability Bill was vetoed by Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin on Monday.

The PDAB legislation was patroned by Sen. Creigh Deeds (D-Charlottesville) and Sen. Bill Stanley (R-Franklin) in the Senate (Senate Bill 274), and by Del. Karrie Delaney (D-Fairfax) and Del. Nadarius Clark (D-Suffolk) in the House (House Bill 570).

A Prescription Drug Affordability Board is comprised of health and medical professionals who could set upper payment limits on prescription drugs.

Politico recently reported that Youngkin met with industry lobbyists who convinced him to veto the legislation that could potentially lower the cost of medicine for Virginians.

The governor faced an April 8 deadline to make a decision about the PDAB legislation.

“Gov. Youngkin has once again shown his true colors as someone who would rather stand with Big Pharma than Virginians struggling to afford life-saving medicines, said Rhena Hicks, executive director of Freedom Virginia. “The governor has talked a big game about bringing down costs for families, but you cannot lower the cost of living without lowering the cost of medicine. If the governor truly cared about standing up for hardworking Virginia families, he would have signed this legislation.

According to Dogwood, just months after House Republicans killed the 2023 PDAB bill, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, or PhRMA, donated $60,000 to Youngkin’s Spirit of Virginia PAC.

PhRMA came to Youngkin’s defense again today, putting out a statement related to the governor’s veto and blaming health insurance companies for high drug prices.

“Gov. Youngkin is putting patients first by stopping bad policies that fail to address the root of the problems for rising health care costs,” said Stami Williams, director of public affairs for PhRMA. “Health insurance companies and their PBM middlemen decide how much patients must pay at the pharmacy counter. They make it increasingly difficult for patients to get the medicines they need through rising copays, deductibles, and coinsurance.

“We applaud Gov. Youngkin for not only protecting access to medicines and the patient-doctor relationship but for safeguarding biopharmaceutical companies’ ability to invest in important life-saving treatments for those who need it most.”

Deeds was disappointed the governor vetoed the bill after Youngkin encouraged legislators to work across party lines to rein in the cost of living for Virginians.

“Virginians need commonsense solutions to lower the cost of living, and this legislation presented that opportunity to prioritize hardworking people over big drug companies,” said Deeds. “I hope my colleagues will join me in doing the hard work to make medicine more affordable and to drive down the cost of living.”

A recent poll from AARP Virginia found three-quarters of Virginia voters want their legislators to pass a PDAB, including 85 percent of Democrats, 71 percent of Republicans and 70 percent of Independents.

“AARP is disappointed that Gov. Youngkin vetoed this commonsense legislation,” said Jim Dau, AARP Virginia state director. “Virginians across the state have made very clear that they expected action to address the unaffordable costs of life-saving medication, and they overwhelmingly support the creation of a Prescription Drug Affordability Board. General Assembly members in both parties answered the call, but today’s veto is a step backward to helping many people afford their cost of living – and their cost of staying alive.”

PDABs have been established in both Republican and Democratic administrations across eight states, most recently in Minnesota and Colorado.

“Prescription Drug Affordability shouldn’t be a Democratic or Republican issue, it should simply be a Virginia issue,” said Hicks. “Rest assured, after making huge progress this year, we will keep fighting for Virginians’ financial freedom next session.”

The General Assembly may override the governor’s veto when two-thirds of the majority of members support a bill.

In total, there were 1,046 bills sent to Youngkin during the 2024 General Assembly session. Youngkin signed 777 bills, amended 116 bills and vetoed 153 bills, according to the governor’s office.

“I have completed my actions on the 1,046 bills sent to me by the General Assembly, signing 777 into law. As I said on the first day of this year’s legislative session, in the State of the Commonwealth address, every piece of legislation I have had the honor to sign into law as governor has necessarily been bipartisan,” said Gov. Youngkin. “And where there are differences in our approaches, I hope my amendments reflect the common ground we can find together. I want to thank every member of the General Assembly for their service to the Commonwealth and look forward to their return to Richmond next week as we work toward an on-time end to this year’s session.”

Crystal Graham

Crystal Graham

Crystal Abbe Graham is the regional editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1999 graduate of Virginia Tech, she has worked for nearly 25 years as a reporter and editor for several Virginia publications, written a book, and garnered more than a dozen Virginia Press Association awards for writing and graphic design. She was the co-host of "Viewpoints," a weekly TV news show, and co-host of Virginia Tonight, a nightly TV news show. Her work on "Virginia Tonight" earned her a national Telly award for excellence in television.