A House bill promises lower costs to consumers
Even before we hit older age, we’re facing increasingly expensive prescription drug costs. It’s an issue that Governor DeSantis and the Florida House are taking on this year. Their idea is to import cheaper medications from Canada into Florida, with the goal of saving the state’s Medicaid program and individual Floridians millions of dollars a year. But it will have to overcome skepticism in the Senate and win approval of the federal government to become a reality.
The plan is contained in HB 19 sponsored by Rep. Tom Leek (R-Ormond Beach). It would establish two separate import programs. The Canadian Importation Program would allow the state to import drugs from Canada for use in the state’s Medicaid program and in state prisons. The second program is the International Drug Importation Program, which would be run by the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation and available through pharmacies to individual residents.
Both programs would require approval from the federal Health and Human Services Administration but Governor DeSantis says he doesn’t see that as an ultimate obstacle given that the President is “enthused” about the idea. Rep. Leek has phrased the argument as a choice between “patients over profits.”
A House staff analysis states that the United States overall spends 30%-190% more on prescription drugs than other developed countries. Individual drugs cost 174% more on average for the exact same prescription outside the U.S.
HB 19 has passed two of its three committees, despite testimony from pharmaceutical companies warning the bill will lead to increases in counterfeit drugs that can be deadly. A similar bill in the Senate (SB 1452) however, has not had a hearing. Another Senate bill, SB 1528 by Senators Aaron Bean (R-Jacksonville) and Joe Gruters (R-Sarasota) would authorize only the Canadian Importation Program. The bill will be heard in its first committee this week. Senate President Bill Galvano has expressed skepticism, saying authority for such a program lies with the federal government and not the states.
LMA Newsletter of 3-25-19