DENVER – This afternoon, Senators Jaquez Lewis and Gonzales, along with Representatives Caraveo and Kennedy, in partnership with Governor Polis, announced the introduction of SB21-175, a bill to establish the Prescription Drug Affordability Board.
“Prescription drugs cost too much and Coloradans are sick and tired of being ripped off. This bill is an important step toward our goal of saving people money on health care,” said Governor Jared Polis. “I want to thank the bill sponsors for their efforts to ensure that hardworking Coloradans can get the medicine they need for themselves and their families without worrying about astronomical costs.”
“As prescription drug costs continue to skyrocket, people are forced to make impossible choices,” said Senator Sonya Jaquez Lewis, D-Boulder County, a pharmacist and prime sponsor of the legislation. “This proposal–this group of non-partisan experts–has the potential to save Coloradans as much as 75% on the most unaffordable drugs. We have no choice but to address this issue–we absolutely must get this under control so we can build a healthy Colorado for all!”
“The painful and heartbreaking accounts of Coloradans who are forced to choose between filling prescriptions, skipping doses or paying for basic necessities are far too common,” said bill sponsor Representative Chris Kennedy, D-Lakewood. “The skyrocketing cost of prescription drugs is hurting families, and it’s hurting our economic recovery. Coming out of this pandemic, we must build back stronger, and that means making common sense reforms to lower the costs of the drugs that are eating away at the bottom line of so many hardworking Coloradans.”
Too many Coloradans skip doses, stretch the length of their prescriptions, or delay filling prescriptions because they simply cannot afford them. As established in the bill, the Prescription Drug Affordability Board will convene a panel of experts to investigate prescription drug cost increases, and set guardrails on cost increases for the most expensive prescription drugs in the state.
The affordability board would set upper payment limits for prescription drugs that meet certain cost increase thresholds. These payment limits would apply to all purchasers in the state, but will only be placed on the highest cost drugs, with purchasers continuing to be able to negotiate rates for the vast majority of drugs. The board will collect and evaluate the data necessary to review the affordability of prescription drugs and make policy recommendations to legislators. The board will be made up of nonpartisan, unpaid experts who are free from conflicts of interest.
“Even prior to the pandemic, nearly 1 in 3 Coloradans struggled to afford the prescription drugs they need to stay healthy, forcing families to choose between buying their prescriptions or paying rent and buying groceries,” said bill sponsor Senator Julie Gonzales, D-Denver. “At a time when Coloradans are struggling with the economic and health impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, we should ensure that all Coloradans – particularly in communities of color – have access to affordable health care.”
“Prescription drugs are essential to managing, preventing, and curing diseases, but not every Coloradan can access them because cost is a barrier when it shouldn’t even be a consideration,” said bill sponsor Rep Yadira Caraveo, D-Thornton, a physician. “Coloradans need us to act now. Colorado families are struggling with unfair and unaffordable drug costs. The affordability board will reign in the highest cost drugs and stop the out of control increases that are reaching deeper and deeper into Coloradans pockets and driving up the cost of healthcare for everyone.”
A recent poll from the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative found that 77% of Coloradans supported the idea of establishing a Prescription Drug Affordability Board to analyze and act to lower the cost of certain prescription drugs — and this bill seeks to answer their call.
To read the full text of the bill and track it through the legislative process, visit leg.colorado.gov/bills/sb21-175