Michigan Rep. Haley Stevens introduces bill to lower prescription drug costs

Amid all the impeachment talk, there is in fact, still some lawmaking going on.

Buried beneath the talking points of candidates running for office is a whole web of health care costs that lawmakers have aimed at reigning in for years. On Tuesday,  Michigan congresswoman Haley Stevens introduced a bill that targeted some of those costs.

"The exorbitant cost of prescription drugs is forcing countless families in my district to make the impossible choice between taking care of their health and putting food on the table," she said. "We cannot tolerate a system that is causing three in ten adults to not take their medication as prescribed due to high costs. 

Stevens (D-Rochester Hills) introduced HB4669 in an effort to curb prescription drug prices and clear up the medicare enrollment process

The bill, titled Maximizing Drug Coverage for Low-Income Senior Act, is designed to lower the cost of prescription drugs that medicare beneficiaries struggle to pay for. Under Medicare's Low-Income Subsidy program, seniors with low wages have their prescription drugs partially or fully covered by Medicare Part D, a subsection of the federal health insurance plan.

How those individuals receive these subsidies and the plan they're given is an arbitrary process judged only on the geography of where that person lives. That presents problems and can leave the gap in costs of prescription drugs completely different among recipients.

Stevens' new bill amends that program by establishing a protocol that matches recipients with a better-suited plan. What they're calling Intelligent Assignment would use factors like prior medication use, pharmacy preferences and previous medical history for a better-suited plan. Whatever algorithm is devised to take all these factors into account would lower out-of-pocket drug costs for medicare-recipients. 

Since being introduced, the bill has already received the blessing from groups like the National Council of Aging and Justice in Aging.

"There is much innovation that can be done in our great Medicare program to ease the burden of the high cost of prescription drugs, which tends to fall hardest on older adults," said Stevens.

Currently, more than 260,000 people in Michigan are enrolled in the Part D plan including 54,000 in Wayne County, a county Stevens partly represents.

The freshman rep. is joined by three other members from the House, including Reps. Jahana Hayes of Connecticut, Terri Sewell of Alabama and Annie Kuster of New Hampshire. The Department of Health and Human Services would take the mantle of defining where recipients fall under Intelligent Assignment.