Office of the Commissioner of Insurance, AARP: Highlighting Prescription Drug Affordability Challenges Facing Wisconsinites

Madison, Wisconsin— This week, Insurance Commissioner Nathan Houdek and Deputy Commissioner Rachel Cissne Carabell met with legislators and AARP advocates to hear their personal stories about the impact of high prescription drug prices.

“Across Wisconsin, too many people are forced to cut pills in half, skip doses, ration their insulin or not fill prescriptions simply because the cost of those medications is too high,” said Commissioner Houdek. “I am grateful for the committed advocates who sat down with us to share their stories about high drug prices and unexpected price fluctuations affecting their everyday lives. Unfortunately, their stories are not unique. That’s why it’s critical that we implement the recommendations of the Governor’s Task Force on Lowering Prescription Drug Prices to help all Wisconsinites afford the medications they need.”

A 2019 study found that three in ten people don’t take prescription drugs due to financial burden.[1] The price of insulin has increased dramatically, from $40 per vial in 2001 to $289 per vial in 2018 for a commonly used brand. [2] Some Wisconsin families are even forced to choose between paying their heating bill or filling the prescription that will save their lives.

To combat these rising costs, Governor Tony Evers signed Executive Order #39 in 2019 to create a task force focused on lowering prescription drug prices. Commissioner Houdek served as chair of the Governor’s task force, coordinating the work of a diverse coalition of pharmaceutical manufacturers, insurers, pharmacy benefit managers, pharmacists, consumer advocates, state agencies and more who worked to consider and find solutions to this complex problem.

Building on the work of the task force, Governor Evers included 20 of these initiatives as part of his 2021-23 Executive Budget. Taken together, the proposals in the Governor’s budget represent one of the boldest and most comprehensive approaches our state has ever undertaken to control drug costs and increase the accessibility of prescription drugs. The Joint Finance Committee removed these measures from the Governor’s budget and several legislators reintroduced them in the “Less Per Rx” package, including Representative Lisa Subeck and Senator Kelda Roys. None of the bills included in this package passed before the Legislature adjourned for the end of session in March.

“It is critical that Wisconsin address prescription drug prices because drugs don’t work if people can’t afford them. Governor Evers’ proposals that became the “Less for Rx” package are important steps in addressing skyrocketing prescription drug prices,” said Lisa Lamkins, AARP Advocacy Director.

Among more than a dozen measures, the Governor’s 2021-23 budget proposals would have created the Office of Prescription Drug Affordability to oversee and regulate the pharmaceutical supply chain and act as a watchdog for Wisconsin consumers. He would also have created a Prescription Drug Affordability Review Board to set prescription drug spending targets and set limits on reasonable prices.

Learn more about the Governor’s task force proposals here.

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