By: Diane Bernard, Public News Service – MD

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Since Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan refused to sign a measure to fund the state’s new Prescription Drug Affordability board last week, health care reform groups now are urging the General Assembly to override the veto.

The first-in-the-nation board was established last year by lawmakers to reduce the cost of prescription drugs, an effort even more important now during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Vinny DeMarco, president of the Maryland Citizen’s Health Initiative. He said he’s disappointed by the veto of a bill that provides a loan that will be repaid through an assessment of drug companies.

“It is just completely baffling that Gov. Hogan would veto a bill which would pay back the state money and fund a really smart way to make prescription drugs more affordable,” DeMarco said. “It seems he’s taking the side of prescription-drug corporations against people who need their prescription drugs.”

In a letter to General Assembly leaders, Hogan called the bill, and other revenue-raising bills he vetoed, “misguided,” claiming they would raise taxes and fees on Marylanders, which would be “unconscionable” in the midst of a global pandemic and economic crash.

But DeMarco saidSenate Bill 669andHouse Bill 1095would ultimately help folks save money. The bills would raise up to $2 million to fund the board through minimal fees from drug manufacturers and insurers of about $1,000 each, which he says they easily can afford.

He pointed out that the board will then use the money to hire researchers to investigate why drug prices have skyrocketed in an effort to bring them down.

“Twenty-five percent of Marylanders can’t afford the prescription drugs they need. They have to choose between their drugs and their rent or their kids’ college or so many other things,” he said. “It makes no sense at a time when drug corporations spend a lot more on advertising than they do on research.”

The Senate bill passed unanimously and the House bill was approved in a partisan vote – 98 Democrats to 36 Republicans. DeMarco is hopeful that when the General Assembly comes back into session, even if it’s next January, an override will have full backing.

David M. Higgins II, Publisher/Editor

David M. Higgins was born in Baltimore and grew up in Southern Maryland. He has had a passion for journalism since high school. After spending many years in the Hospitality Industry he began working in...