Maryland is moving toward cheaper drugs

An op-ed by Brian D. Pieninck, president and CEO of CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield, highlighted two serious and interrelated issues: the soaring cost of prescription drugs and the need to make health insurance as affordable as possible in Maryland (BlueCrossBlueShield CEO: Md. should consider insurance mandate,” Nov. 29). I applaud him for his willingness to find long-term, innovative solutions that will protect consumers across the state and build on the short-term but very significant reinsurance program which CareFirst helped to get enacted during the 2018 General Assembly session.

Maryland should take two key steps in response. First, we must stabilize drug costs so no Marylander ever has to decide between paying the rent and buying their prescriptions. Drugs don’t work if people can’t afford them. We are working to create a Prescription Drug Affordability Board that would ensure that people in Maryland are charged fair and affordable costs for their medicines. We have broad support for this important legislation in the 2019 General Assembly session, with Sen. Katherine Klausmeier (Baltimore County) and Del. Joseline Peña-Melnyk (Prince George’s) serving as lead sponsors. Super majorities in both houses have already expressed support for the measure.

Second, we echo Mr. Pieninck’s call for restoring an individual insurance mandate in the state. We believe the best way to accomplish this would be through our proposed "health insurance down payment" plan which would require Marylanders without health insurance to pay a state penalty that could serve as a “down payment” for purchasing health insurance coverage. This will lead to tens of thousands of people having insurance, which will bring down premium costs for everyone. Sen. Brian Feldman (Montgomery) and Del. Peña-Melnyk will be lead sponsors of this legislation which also enjoys broad support in the public and among legislators.

We look forward to working with CareFirst on these proposals to help make health care more affordable in Maryland.

Vincent DeMarco, Baltimore

The writer is president of the Maryland Citizens Health Initiative.

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