By Maura Collinsgru
NJ Citizen Action Health Care Program Director
Prescription drug prices are too high, any New Jerseyan can tell you that. This was true before the global Coronavirus pandemic, during the pandemic, and without action from our leaders it will still be true after. That countless families must struggle to afford basic life-saving medication is a tragedy. The New Jersey Legislature must pass A2418/S1066 to lower drug prices.
One of the most important advances in healthcare law was protection for Americans with pre-existing conditions, yet when it comes to prescription drugs many families are still forced to make the choice between their health or putting food on the table. Insurance coverage is often insufficient and leaves half or more of drug costs uncovered, not to mention the hundreds of thousands of uninsured in New Jersey alone.
Pharmaceutical companies face practically no restrictions at the federal or state level on setting drug prices, and they will continue to drive costs up if they are not reined in. The cost of asthma inhalers, for instance, has increased steadily for years. From 2013 to 2018, the average inhaler price rose by 35%, from around $280 to more than $380. Similarly, a one-month supply of insulin was about $20 in 1996. In 2019 it was $275, a 1200% increase. Asthma and diabetes are two of the most common chronic conditions, affecting tens of millions of Americans. The annual cost of these prescriptions to lower- and middle-class families is well into the billions. Just in 2020 and 2021, as the pandemic rages and with over half a million dead in this country, prescription drug prices overall have increased by 5%.
Recent studies show that affording the rising cost of prescription drugs is top of mind for 49% of New Jerseyans, and 43% have delayed or forgone taking a prescription due to the cost. This is unacceptable and lawmakers must act.
The NJ for Affordable Drugs campaign is working to pass legislation, A2418/S1066, to establish an independent Prescription Drug Affordability Board and Stakeholder Advisory Council, both of which would be appointed by the Governor, Attorney General and Legislative leadership. The Board will make recommendations to set limits on what NJ residents pay for prescription drugs that are not reasonably affordable. As a result, families pay less, insurance companies pay less, and the government pays less for Medicare and Medicaid coverage.
The overwhelming majority of New Jerseyans approve of this legislation – 88%, across party lines. This is a no-brainer that will save lives, help our economy, and give hard working families some much-needed financial breathing space. Yet we still need support from Senator Singleton and Assemblyman Conaway, your legislators. Contact them now and tell them we need lower drug prices and a Prescription Drug Affordability Board ASAP – tinyurl.com/affordableNJdrugs.
Drugs don’t work if people can’t afford them. Speak up for your family and your neighbors, ask Senator Singleton and Assemblyman Conaway to vote yes on A2418 so New Jerseyans can access the medicine they need to survive.
Senator Troy Singleton: (856) 234-2790
Assemblyman Herb Conaway, Jr: (856) 461-3997