"Don't stop trying" that is the theme of the Washington State legislature as overrode a governor's veto to push through a scaled down version of a pharmaceutical pricing bill .
The state legislature of Washington State had an extended special session this year to come up with a balanced budget. However, state legislators had an even bigger idea in mind: override vetoes by Governor Jay Inslee of twenty-seven bills in early March. Gov. Inslee actually vetoed these bills out of frustration that the legislature did not complete their work during the regular session, i.e. coming up with a balanced budget. In his March 10, 2016, veto message he stated, "This is a worthy bill, but it has preceded the passage of the 2016-2017 supplemental operating budget, which is a greater legislative priority. Until a budget agreement is reached, I cannot support this bill."
One bill Gov. Inslee vetoed is SB 6569, "An Act Relating to the creation of a task force on patient out-of-pocket costs." The House and Senate re-passed the bill again, following the veto, with enough votes to make the bill become law. Following the March 28th and 29th veto votes, the bill was filed with the Secretary of State and will become effective June 28, 2016.
This particular bill was drafted because, according to the drafters, 43% of people in fair or poor health and 38% of those taking four or more medications a year say that it is either somewhat difficult or very difficult to pay for their medications. The legislature did give credit where credit is due, noting that pharmaceutical companies provide many patients financial assistance in paying for their medications. However, the legislature had difficulty with the fact that these programs do not – and cannot – provide relief from "extraordinary out-of-pocket costs for all affected patients."
By July 1, 2016, the Washington state Department of Health will convene the task force, which shall be comprised of various groups – including pharmaceutical companies, prescribers, pharmacists, hospitals, the office of the insurance commissioner, the healthcare authority, a business association, and biotechnology – and coordinate task force meetings. It is encouraged that potential participants submit a letter of interest to the department of health, and the secretary shall invite representatives of interested groups to participate in the task force.
The task force shall meet and discuss and evaluate factors that are contributing to the out-of-pocket costs for patients, including but not limited to: prescription drug cost trends and plan benefit design. The task force is also asked to consider patient treatment adherence and the impacts on chronic illness and acute disease, considering long-term outcomes and patient costs.
By December 1, 2016, the task force shall present their recommendations, or a summary of task force discussions, to the appropriate committees of the legislature. This is a change from the original bill, which gave the task force an additional year, until December 1, 2017, to provide this information to relevant committees.
We estimate next year that the legislature will reintroduce SB 6471 (annual reporting for manufacturers with a wholesale price of $10k or more per year or per course of treatment) or something similar.
Thanks to Nico Fiorentino at G&M Healthcare LLC for bringing this to our attention.