Prescription drug costs are skyrocketing across the United States. Take insulin, for example. The cost of this life-saving drug nearly tripled between 2002 and 2013, forcing some Americans to forgo this indispensable medicine. We spend more money on prescription drugs than citizens of any other country – in fact, estimates predict that by 2022, nationwide prescription costs will exceed $62 billion.
As county executive of Harford County, I know first-hand that local governments are not immune to this financial burden.
In 2017, Harford County paid for 140 prescriptions of one widely used drug that each cost $9,448 per month – totaling $1.3 million. Altogether our county paid $13.3 million in 2017 on medications for our hard-working employees.
Given recent industry trends, those costs are only going to rise. We’re not alone. Across Maryland, counties, cities and towns, as well as the state government, must shoulder the financial strain of expensive prescriptions. Drug costs are surging, and state and local governments must keep paying more.
Thankfully, the Maryland General Assembly has offered a solution: The Prescription Drug Affordability Board. The board, proposed by bipartisan legislation, would examine relevant data alongside input from industry and medical experts. Then, the board, with the approval of key legislative leaders, could establish maximum costs for certain expensive drugs that state and local governments would pay. The board would then be required to recommend to the General Assembly whether it should have the authority to set the maximum amount which all Marylanders would pay for high cost drugs.
This commonsense bill is going to help Harford County – and local governments all over the state – save money on costly drugs. These funds can be directed to other priorities, such as education and public safety. I believe enacting this bill would be a fiscally prudent decision for our state. I urge Governor Hogan, a fellow Maryland Republican, to sign this legislation.
Fiscal conservatism is my guiding principle as a county executive. With more freed-up revenue, Harford County could continue to invest in our priorities: education, public safety, mental health care and opioid addiction services.
We should not be forced to choose between the health of our employees and the education of our youth due to surging drug costs. And, polling shows Marylanders of all parties agree: The Prescription Drug Affordability Board will move Maryland forward and enjoys wide support in the state.
If this bill becomes law, local government health care costs could decrease by significant amounts by fiscal year 2020. These additional funds will make our towns and cities better places to learn, to work, to live. The Prescription Drug Affordability Board can help us get there.
— Barry Glassman
The writer is Harford County executive.