February 19, 2022

Oped by Maine State Sen. Chloe Maxmin

It’s important to me to know what folks in our community are struggling with, so late last year I sent out a survey to every household in my district asking you to let me know what challenges you’re facing. When it came to health care, the answers weren’t too surprising: The high cost of health care coverage and prescription drugs continue to create hardship for people in our community. Here in Augusta, we’re working on several bills to make sure that Mainers are able to access the health care they need without breaking the bank.

One bill, from my colleague Sen. Heather Sanborn, seeks to ban a shady double-billing practice that some insurance companies have started engaging in. Here’s how it works: Those who are struggling to afford their medications can sometimes find help from drug manufacturers, who provide small relief in the form of coupons that cover prescription co-pays. In response, some insurance programs decided that these coupons don’t count towards a patient’s annual out-of-pocket maximum, meaning that patients ultimately end up paying the cost of that co-pay anyway and end up spending more on their care. This is a big problem for people with chronic health conditions, which can often be expensive to treat and manage. This practice is an obvious attempt to nickel-and-dime those who need and qualify for help getting their medicine, and this bill would prohibit Maine-regulated insurance plans from doing this.

Senate President Troy Jackson is sponsoring another measure to help cut down on the cost of prescriptions. Birth control allows many people to live healthier and more independent lives, whether it’s helping to manage a health condition or giving them more power to decide if and when to start a family. But anyone who’s relied on birth control knows that it can take years of trial and error to find a product that works without side effects like headaches, fatigue and mood swings. When you finally find the right birth control product for you, the last thing you need is to find out that your insurance no longer covers it. Sen. Jackson’s bill will require insurance companies to cover, at no cost to the patient, at least one form of birth control from every product category. Patients need to be able to work with their doctors to determine what medicines they need without insurance companies getting in the way of their care.

Affordability is not the only barrier to accessing prescriptions, though. Those with chronic conditions know how scary it is to be without a prescription in an emergency, whether that emergency is a misplaced inhaler or a doctor’s office that’s closed over the weekend. Rep. Amy Roeder is sponsoring a bill to allow pharmacies to dispense emergency supplies of chronic maintenance medications to patients without a prescription, so long as the pharmacy has record of that patient previously receiving that medicine. Insurance companies must cover the emergency supply, but controlled substances like opioids are not eligible for the program. This bill is a great solution to a problem many of us have experienced at one time or another, and I’m thankful to Rep. Roeder for bringing it forward.

I’m proud to be supporting these measures that will bring real relief to our friends and neighbors.

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