Legislators in 20 states have announced efforts to lower prescription drug prices in present and upcoming legislative sessions. Joined by labor leaders and senior citizen activists, legislators announced plans to model their efforts after a law passed in Maine five weeks ago that established the nation's first program where the state negotiates prescription drug prices for residents.
The Center for Policy Alternatives , a liberal policy organization that coordinated the effort in the states, simultaneously announced the states' efforts June 20 in Washington, D.C., with Maine Senate Majority Leader Chellie Pingree, who spearheaded her state's recent legislation.
"In the states, we're stuck with the burden. We're paying the bills. We've found ... Congress has been unable to act on this issue, continues to be unable to act," Pingree said in reference to seniors without insurance who face steep prescription drug costs.
"But the fact is in the states, we're spending limited tax dollars for our benefit programs, and we continue to be unable to meet the need," she said.
On the federal level, the House is scheduled to take up the GOP's Medicare prescription drug proposal within the next two weeks. Senate Democrats introduced their Medicare drug benefit bill Tuesday (June 20), and President Clinton is pushing his own Medicare drug benefit plan.
The 20 states planning to introduce prescription drug legislation modeled after Maine's include Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Iowa, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, North Carolina, New York, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Vermont, Washington and Wisconsin. Of these states, only Michigan, New York, North Carolina and Pennsylvania are still in session and plan to introduce legislation that follows the Maine approach this session, according to Bernie Horn, policy director for the Center for Policy Alternatives.
According to the Center, more than 70 million Americans have no prescription drug coverage, including 18 million seniors and 11 million children.