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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Jennifer Schultz (DFL)

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RELEASE: Duluth lawmakers support 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. The Prescription Drug Price Transparency Act addresses skyrocketing prices of pharmaceutical medications, a bill boosting payments for low-income working Minnesotans in the Minnesota Family Investment Program (MFIP) to provide needed assistance to working families, and Tobacco 21 legislation will help keep kids healthy by preventing youth tobacco use.

The Prescription Drug Price Transparency Act 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.

“Inexcusably high drug prices are a significant barrier in the way of Minnesotans experiencing real economic security, and are a significant driver in our high health care costs,” said Rep. Jen Schultz (DFL – Duluth). “Pharmaceutical innovations only benefit people when they can afford the medication. The transparency required by this legislation is one step forward in our work to reduce drug prices and help all Minnesotans afford the health care they need.” 

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, using federal funding to help families make ends meet.

“Many families in our community were struggling before COVID-19 emerged, and the pandemic has only made their situation more difficult,” said Rep. Liz Olson (DFL – Duluth), the House Majority Whip. “In Minnesota, we care for one another. The funding in this bill might not seem like a lot, but will make a huge difference for families who are in a tough spot as they navigate this crisis.”

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.