Bill will cap out-of-pocket costs for prescription drugs

A bill introduced in the Washington State Legislature on Thursday will make it easier for people in Washington to afford costly prescription medications by capping the out-of-pocket expenses for patients who suffer from chronic illnesses and diseases.

Under the proposal, Senate Bill 6320/House Bill 2602, insurance coverage of prescription drugs would have a one month, per prescription maximum copay of $100. In addition, the annual deductible for prescription drug coverage would be capped at $500.

“The reality is that, even with private insurance, out-of-pocket costs for prescription drugs can add up to hundreds, and in some cases thousands, of dollars per month,” said Sen. Cyrus Habib, D-Bellevue, who also serves as the Senate Democratic Whip. “I brought this legislation forward because I believe that Washingtonians should never go bankrupt because of an arthritis, cancer, or MS diagnosis. By capping the copay, we are ensuring that those with chronic conditions or serious illnesses, which often includes seniors and people with disabilities, are not forced to go into debt just to pay for their treatment.”

The volatility of the cost of prescription drugs was most notably highlighted last fall when Turing Pharmaceuticals increased the price of a prescription drug by 5,000 percent. Overnight, the price of a drug approved by the F.D.A in 1953, went from $13.50 to $750 per tablet when the rights to the drug were sold.

“Too many families, and particularly seniors on fixed incomes and people struggling with chronic illness, are forced to make decisions to begin or continue prescriptions based on rising co-pays,” said Rep. Brady Walkinshaw, D-Seattle, and sponsor of companion legislation in the House of Representatives. “We’ve seen other states begin to tackle this problem. I believe it’s important for us to consider this legislation in Washington State.”

If passed, the plan would take effect Jan. 1, 2017.