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MD representatives address rising drug costs, concerns about state retiree plan change

Posted at 5:57 PM, Aug 13, 2018
and last updated 2018-08-13 17:57:02-04

Maryland Citizens' Health Initiative held a meeting Monday at the Liberty Senior Center with state delegates and senators to address prescription affordability. 

"Some people can't afford college because they have to pay for their drugs," the initiatives president, Vincent DeMarco, said. 

AARP says the most popular drugs have risen in cost by 208% since 2008.

"Generic drugs are marked up over 5000 times what they were worth and what you would pay in any other nation," State Senator Delores Kelley said. 

Many filling the room were state retirees still looking for answers about the loss of their prescription drug plan. Come January, all Medicare-elligible state retirees have to be signe dup for Part D. A switch that have caused frustration and confusion. In some cases, the new plans cost much more than what they currently pay.

"I would be bankrupt in very short order. I would have no assets, nothing whatsoever," Jeffrey Israel said. 

"It doesn’t make any sense to me. The state of Maryland has breached an implied contract at the very least," CPA Max Highstein said. "These employees did their work faithfully to the state of Maryland. They need to be paid for what they did."

"The state can’t pay everything we are due to pay right now. We’ve got people with all kinds of needs and the budget just wouldn’t allow it. So it made sense to go to a federal plan if the plan was decent. Nobody knew then what it would look like now and that's all this price gouging," Kelley said. 

"Right now, they charge whatever they want, gouge us and have to answer to nobody," DeMarco said.

DeMarco went over propsed legislature to create a drug cost commission to communicate with drug companies about prices. 

"This drug cost commission will say to them, 'You have to justify why you are charging so much, and if you can't justify it, we're gonna make sure Marylanders only pay a reasonable amount'," DeMarco said. 

Something he says would address the underlying problem of rising costs that state retirees are facing. But with skepticism about how fast it would happen, they're calling for their plan to be reinstated.

"That may take years to do. It's a good thought but it’s a pie in the sky," Israel said. 

"It's frustrating but I'm gonna keep fighting, just like i did for the people of Maryland for 32 years," retiree Mary Frye said. 

Gov. Larry Hogan announced a one-year transition program to reimburse state retirees for costs over $1,500, though it's created more questions about how fast the reimbursements will happen and how to file for one. 

There will be a joint hearing in Annapolis on Sept. 13, where state representatives will talk about Medicare Part D and answer questions. Delegates at Monday's meeting said they will be providing some buses from Randallstown so more people are able to attend.