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AARP New York Urges State Legislature to Pass Prescription Drug Affordability Bills by End of 2024 Session

Posted on 05/07/24

Latino Man Sitting At Table Sorting Through Prescrption Medications

EN ESPAÑOL | ALBANY, N.Y. – AARP New York, backed by AARP volunteers from across the state and joined by several supportive state lawmakers, urged the Legislature today to pass a package of bills aimed at making prescription drugs more affordable and more accessible to New Yorkers.

With a 20-foot-tall inflatable pill bottle as a backdrop in the Well of the Legislative Office Building, volunteers from Long Island to Buffalo fanned out across the downtown state government complex during Lobby Day to speak to lawmakers about the organization’s ongoing efforts to bring down the high prices far too many New Yorkers are forced to pay for their medications.

“Most older Americans need several medications, and those monthly costs add up and are getting higher, especially for aging people on a fixed income,” said AARP New York State Director Beth Finkel. “People shouldn’t be forced to choose between paying for vital medications and putting food on their table, but that’s what is happening across the state. There’s a package of bills in the Legislature right now that, if passed by the Senate and Assembly and enacted by Governor Hochul, would bring immediate relief to older New Yorkers.”

“We thank our volunteers for traveling from all corners of the state to lend their support to our efforts to lower prescription drug prices for all New Yorkers,” Finkel added. “And we thank the legislators who are sponsoring the bills that would go a long way toward helping so many older New Yorkers afford their medications.”

The problem of skyrocketing prescription drug costs can be addressed – now – with common-sense solutions, including legislation that would:

  • Establish a wholesale drug importation program to allow the safe importation of prescription drugs at far lower prices than New Yorkers pay now. S.604 (Skoufis)/A.7954 (Simon).
  • Force pharmaceutical companies to reveal “pay-for-delay” deals in which they pay to keep lower-priced generic drugs from reaching the market sooner. S.3518 (Fernandez)/A.895 (Gallagher).   §  Establish an international prescription drug reference pricing program. S.398-A (Cleare)/A.9086 (Shrestha).
  • Match EPIC enrollees with Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP) benefits to help eligible recipients pay their energy bills. S.8760 (Cleare)/A.9369 (McDonald).

Prescription drug provisions in a federal law passed in 2023 are helping millions of Americans better afford their life-sustaining medications. While these are big improvements, there is still much more that can and must be done at the state level.
High prices impact all New Yorkers by raising premiums, out-of-pocket costs, and the price tag for taxpayer-supported programs such as Medicaid and the New York State Elderly Pharmaceutical Insurance Coverage (EPIC) program. The financial burden can be especially onerous for older residents in our state, where nearly one in five New Yorkers are age 65 or above.

Meanwhile, just across New York’s border with Canada, some patented prescription drugs can cost half as much as those sold in the United States.

State Senator Cordell Cleare, Chair of the Senate Aging Committee, said: “I want to thank AARP for constantly keeping an intense spotlight on the issue of prescription drug costs. I am further heartened that two of my bills are part of their end of session priorities. I look forward to making progress to ensure that all EPIC enrollees automatically become eligible for HEAP and to drive down the insultingly high cost of prescriptions by indexing our prices to certain accepted international benchmarks.”

State Assemblymember Ron Kim, Chair of the Assembly Aging Committee, said, “Life-saving medications are prohibitively more expensive for far too many New Yorkers. In fact, more than five million Medicare beneficiaries struggle to afford their prescriptions, particularly those who do not receive a low-income subsidy that lowers out-of-pocket spending. I want to thank AARP for advocating for the passage of the prescription drug affordability bills and vow to work with my colleagues on their passage.”

Assemblymember John T. McDonald III, RPh said, "The intention of the data matching bill for EPIC patients to access HEAP is straightforward in that it helps individuals in need access critical resources to live a better life. In healthcare, we look beyond prescription medicine and look at critical elements of Social Determinants of Health such as housing and energy affordability to live in a safe environment. I am hopeful that with the support of many, including AARP, this critical identification tool can be implemented and utilized as an effective way to improve the quality of life of those in need."  

Assemblymember Sarahana Shrestha said, “Getting the medicine you need shouldn't have such a high-cost concern. Prescription drug prices are three times higher in the U.S. than in 37 other similar countries, including Canada, and New York must absolutely explore the success we've seen elsewhere in lowering costs when you cap prescription drug prices using international reference pricing. We can make medicine much more affordable in New York by using Canadian prices as the upper limit. The rheumatoid arthritis drug Xeljanz, for example, costs about 450% more right now than what it would cost if we capped it at the proposed Canadian reference price.”

Assemblymember Emily Gallagher said, “Drug pricing reform is a much-needed prescription for a sick system. Backdoor deals by Big Pharma to pay competitors to keep generics off the market are costing our state and citizens dearly, and probably keeping life-saving drugs out of peoples' hands. It's time to shine a light on this shady practice with the Manufacturer Disclosure and Transparency Act."

Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon said, "The high cost of prescription drugs makes medicine and life-saving drug treatment unattainable for too many people. New Yorkers shouldn’t be experiencing health or financial hardship while Big Pharma fattens its profit margins and when we have a solution at hand. We can reduce this financial hardship on consumers by importing medication from countries such as Canada at a substantially lower price. I carry legislation to allow New York State to create a wholesale program, certified by the federal government, so that New Yorkers can safely get the medication they need to be healthy and thrive. Thank you, AARP, for your advocacy, and to my legislative partner, Senator Skoufis, for your partnership."

Connect with AARP New York on X: @AARPNY and Facebook: AARP New York

About AARP
AARP is the nation's largest nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to empowering Americans 50 and older to choose how they live as they age. With a nationwide presence, AARP strengthens communities and advocates for what matters most to the more than 100 million Americans 50-plus and their families: health security, financial stability and personal fulfillment. AARP also works for individuals in the marketplace by sparking new solutions and allowing carefully chosen, high-quality products and services to carry the AARP name. As a trusted source for news and information, AARP produces the nation's largest circulation publications, AARP The Magazine and AARP Bulletin. To learn more, visit www.aarp.org/about-aarp/, www.aarp.org/español or follow @AARP, @AARPenEspañol and @AARPadvocates on social media.

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