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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Tina Liebling (DFL)

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RELEASE: Rep. Liebling supports Rx drug price transparency, MFIP COVID-19 supplemental payment, Tobacco 21 measures

Saturday, May 09, 2020

SAINT PAUL – Today, the Minnesota House approved three measures aimed at protecting Minnesotans’ health and economic security during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond, including the Prescription Drug Price Transparency Act, which begins to address the skyrocketing prices of pharmaceutical medications. The House also passed a bill to provide a one-time additional payment to low-income Minnesotans in the Minnesota Family Investment Program (MFIP), and Tobacco 21 legislation to help keep kids healthy by preventing youth tobacco use.

“Pharmaceutical companies make massive profits and are unable or unwilling to explain why prices for lifesaving medications shoot up so steeply. This bill will help Minnesotans and policymakers understand what is going on, which is the first step to a solution,” said Rep. Tina Liebling (DFL – Rochester). “During the public health emergency, we must continue to work on measures that affect the other health needs of Minnesotans. Even wonder drugs can’t improve health if Minnesotans can’t afford them.”

The Prescription Drug Price Transparency Act is supported by a broad coalition that includes patient groups, the business community, provider groups, labor unions and health plans. The bill requires price transparency for three categories of drugs: existing drugs, new drugs and newly acquired drugs. Manufacturers would be required to report drug pricing information for drugs that exceed certain thresholds or increase by a certain percentage over a 12 or 24-month period. The Minnesota Department of Health would post this information on a public website in an easily accessible and clear format. Drug manufacturers are currently not subject to the same price transparency as hospitals, providers and health plans.

Also Saturday, the House approved legislation delivering one-time supplemental payments of up to $500 per household for individuals enrolled in MFIP, a program that helps parents move to financial stability through work. The bill uses federal funding to help families make ends meet.  Approximately 27,000 families – including 55,000 children – rely on temporary help from MFIP to meet their basic needs. While MFIP generally serves families that earn less than $27,000 per year (for a family of three), most Minnesotans who receive this assistance earn less than $15,000 per year.

Finally, the House approved legislation that raises the age for Minnesotans to purchase tobacco, tobacco products, electronic delivery devices, and other nicotine products, to 21. In December of 2019, Tobacco 21 became federal law and at the time, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) directed retailers to immediately implement the change. Some retailers, however, have expressed confusion and insisted they will not comply until they see the change made at the state level. The initiative has a strong bipartisan coalition of support among health care professionals, ClearWay Minnesota, youth organizations, and several Minnesota cities that have already enacted Tobacco 21 locally.