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Bills Would Lower Healthcare Costs, Protect Mainers from Drug Price-Gouging

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In 2018, average annual insulin costs in the U.S. were nearing $6,000, after an 11% increase over seven years. (JPC-PROD/Adobe Stock)
In 2018, average annual insulin costs in the U.S. were nearing $6,000, after an 11% increase over seven years. (JPC-PROD/Adobe Stock)
 By Lily Bohlke - Producer, Contact
March 24, 2021

AUGUSTA, Maine -- Maine lawmakers are pushing a package of bills they call "Making Healthcare Work for Maine," which includes bills to lower costs and protect people from drug-price hikes.

Sabrina Burbeck, a hospital screener from Old Town, whose son and brother live with Type One diabetes, said nobody should have to worry about losing their loved ones because their medication prices spike overnight.

Burbeck remembered her parents struggling to pay for her brother's insulin, and in adulthood, he now struggles to cover the cost.

"He had to change what kind of insulin he takes based on costs, and has even resorted to rationing vials of insulin when he is in a pinch," Burbeck observed. "No one should have to live like this or make choices like this. This is not the life that I want for my son."

She joined bill sponsors at a news conference about the package.

It includes Legislative Document 120, to establish an Office of Affordable Healthcare to identify what's driving high prices and make recommendations; and Legislative Document 675, which would protect consumers from price increases not supported by clinical evidence.

Susan Kinney, from Kennebec County, has a daughter with Crohn's disease, who takes Remicade, an expensive drug that has seen steady price increases over the years.

Her daughter recently enrolled in a prescription drug patient-assistance program, but she worries about the future.

"Remicade was approved for Crohn's in 1998," Kinney noted. "There is no reason for the continual increase in price."

GOP lawmakers are reserving judgment on the package for now, saying it's too early to tell what passing the bills would cost the state.

Sen. Troy Jackson, D-Fort Kent, Senate President and the bill's sponsor, pointed to surveys that show before the pandemic, one in seven Mainers reported skipping treatment or care because costs were too high.

"The COVID-19 pandemic has only made things worse," Jackson contended. "In the middle of a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic, pharmaceutical companies have continued to raise the price of life-saving medication."

He added the costs are a nationwide crisis, and argued Mainers deserve the right to receive healthcare and purchase their prescription medications without breaking the bank.

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