Guest Op-Ed: My plan to stop surprise medical billing and lower prescription medication prices

By Joe Gravellese, Candidate for State Representative 

The COVID-19 crisis is providing another example of something many Americans already know: we need serious reforms to our healthcare system – especially reforms that protect families from excessive out-of-pocket expenses. 

Seniors, children, and people with disabilities are especially vulnerable to out-of-pocket medical expenses – even if they have health insurance.

We don’t need to wait for the federal government to act to take steps right here in Massachusetts.

That’s why today I’m endorsing three bills that would help control costs for Massachusetts residents by ending surprise medical billing and lowering the cost of vital prescription medication. If elected, I will co-sponsor and fight for all three:

-1. A bill sponsored by Rep. Lenny Mirra would allow Massachusetts residents to import prescription medications from countries where they cost less than they do here. Prescriptions cost on average 30% less in Canada than they do in the US. This bill would allow residents of Massachusetts to take advantage of importing medication at lower prices.

Colorado, Maine, and Vermont have already adopted such policies – it’s time for Massachusetts to join them. 

-2. Governor Baker has sponsored legislation called the “Stop Surprise Bills Act,” which would require notice to patients before incurring any out-of-network charge, and prohibits out-of-network fees for emergency services. 

When people are facing an emergency and being rushed to the hospital in an ambulance, they’re not asking what insurance provider they take. This bill would protect residents facing an emergency from them being surprised with a massive out-of-network bill.

Twelve states have already passed similar bills, including Connecticut and New Hampshire.

-3. A bill sponsored by State Senator Eric Lesser would work to establish a system for the bulk purchase and distribution of medications with widespread public health benefits, such as insulin. Cities and towns are currently able to bulk purchase narcan, which helps them procure it at a lower price and make it widely available. Using bulk purchasing power, we can make additional medications more affordable.

None of these bills will fully solve our health care cost crisis, but they would all make progress. These are bi-partisan efforts across the country that bring people together and work to help everyone – especially our most vulnerable residents, including senior citizens.

To get these kinds of reforms enacted, we need strong and thoughtful leadership at the State House. I’m ready to bring that kind of leadership to the 16th Suffolk District, and fight to lower healthcare costs for residents of Revere, Chelsea and Saugus.

Joe Gravellese is running in the Democratic primary for State Representative in the 16th Suffolk District, on Tuesday, September 1, 2020.

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