WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and Cory Booker (D-NJ) reintroduced legislation to help lower the costs of needed medical care and prescription drugs for children. The Fair Drug Prices for Kids Act would give states the ability to purchase prescription drugs at the lowest price possible, reducing the cost of prescription drugs for children who receive coverage through the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and generating immediate savings for states and the federal government.
“It’s an absolute tragedy that in one of the richest nations in the world, families still face a steep price tag for their child’s lifesaving prescription drug,” said Sen. Warner. “This commonsense bill would cut through bureaucratic red tape and give states the ability to secure the best possible price – something that is currently forbidden under current law.”
“Skyrocketing health care costs – including prescription drug costs – have left many families unable to afford critical life-saving medication for their children,” said Sen. Booker. “Our bill will make important changes to the CHIP program, lowering drug prices for over 4 million children and helping states save money. Health care is a fundamental right and this legislation is critical to ensuring that more of our nation’s children have access to quality, affordable care.”
The Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) provides low-cost health coverage to low-income children who would otherwise be uninsured. Currently, states can either have a standalone CHIP that is separate from Medicaid, or they can expand Medicaid eligibility to achieve the same goal of providing health insurance to low-income children. States can also have a combination program.
However, states that have a standalone CHIP are not allowed to participate in the Medicaid Drug Rebate program (MDRP), which allows state Medicaid programs to purchase products from drug manufacturers at “Medicaid best price” – the lowest price offered to any other commercial payer. This means that these states are forced to pay higher prices for the same prescription drugs, which can result in higher costs for families and reduced access to medicines and other forms of needed care. In the most recent report released by the Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission, there are more than 4 million children nationally enrolled in a separate CHIP program.
The Fair Drug Prices for Kids Act would give states the option of purchasing prescription drugs for their standalone CHIP through the Medicaid Drug Rebate Program. This would generate immediate savings for individual CHIP programs and the federal government, opening the door for states to use those excess dollars to ensure even more families and children have access to essential medical care and prescription drugs.
The Fair Drug Prices for Kids Act is endorsed by numerous organizations, including the Little Lobbyists, Patients for Affordable Drugs Now, First Focus Campaign for Children and the Children’s Hospital Association. In addition, the Georgetown University Health Policy Institute’s Center for Children and Families included this cost-savings concept in their January 2019 report, “How to Strengthen the Medicaid Drug Rebate Program to Address Rising Medicaid Prescription Drug Costs.”
“We are grateful to Senators Warner and Booker for reintroducing the Fair Drug Prices for Kids Act, which will extend Medicaid’s best price provisions so all CHIP programs get the medication patients need at the lowest possible price,” said Sarah Kaminer Bourland, Legislative Director at Patients For Affordable Drugs Now. “States and families across the country need relief from the burden of high drug prices and this legislation is an important step towards providing that relief to many of those who need it most.”
“We are pleased to support the Fair Drug Prices for Kids Act. We thank Senators Warner and Booker for this bill that will help lower costs for stand-alone CHIP programs and allow states to cover more kids,” said Bruce Lesley, President, First Focus Campaign for Children