State Senator Jason Lewis recently joined his Senate colleagues in a bipartisan vote to pass An Act relative to Pharmaceutical Access, Cost and Transparency (PACT Act). This comprehensive pharmaceutical legislation is intended to address the rapidly increasing cost of prescription drugs and to ensure life-saving medications are affordable, fairly priced, and accessible for all patients who need them.
“Working to expand access to quality, affordable healthcare has been a top priority for me because I believe healthcare should be a basic human right,” said Senator Jason Lewis. “While the pharmaceutical and biotech industries are very important to the Massachusetts economy, we also have to ensure that life-saving drugs, like insulin for example, are affordable and accessible, and the PACT Act includes numerous strategies to make this happen.”
The bill offers immediate price relief for insulin—a life-sustaining, daily drug for the one in 10 Massachusetts residents living with diabetes, without which they face substantial health risks and complications. Insulin prices have recently risen sharply, resulting in out-of-pocket costs that can reach $1,000 or more per year for patients in high-deductible plans or who are underinsured. This financial burden often forces patients to engage in the dangerous practice of severely limiting or forgoing the use of insulin. To address this problem, the PACT Act limits out-of-pocket spending on insulin by eliminating deductibles and coinsurance, and permanently capping co-pays at $25 per 30-day supply.
The bill also includes many other provisions designed to make prescription drugs more affordable for patients and to help control rising healthcare costs:
-Ensures patients pay the lowest possible price at the pharmacy
-Ensures pharmacy choice for patients
-Creates a prescription drug cost assistance trust fund
-Creates a process for the state Health Policy Commission to identify and address unreasonably high priced drugs and excessive price increases
-Requires pharmacy benefit managers to be licensed by the state Division of Insurance
-Requires drug price notification procedures for manufacturers
-Requires greater state oversight of pharmaceutical companies and pharmacy benefit managers
“Our HelpLine takes calls from people across the state who can’t afford their medications. Individuals and families in Massachusetts have been struggling for far too long to access and afford the prescriptions they need, and this legislation provides critical financial relief at a pivotal time,” said Amy Rosenthal, Executive Director at Health Care For All. “By passing this bill today, Senators took an important step to rein in excessive drug costs, bringing oversight of pharmaceutical companies and pharmacy benefit managers in line with other health care industries in the state.”
The State Senate has been a leader in pursuing policies that improve access to quality, affordable healthcare for Massachusetts residents, including expanding telehealth, strengthening mental health and addiction treatment, and tackling high drug costs.
The PACT Act now moves to the Massachusetts House of Representatives for consideration.