Maryland Health Care Bill: Bad Medicine for Patients

The debate over the cost of medicine isn’t new. Nor is political grandstanding on the issue.

Maryland politicians are looking to control drug pricing through increased government intervention, legal threats, and price controls. While this might seem like good politics, it’s bad medicine for patients.

Right now, in Annapolis, the political prescription for improving the cost of healthcare for Maryland patients is, ironically, to harm those providing that healthcare at the best prices to Maryland patients. The proposal – H.B. 631 – is reckless public policy that will result in dangerous unintended consequences for Marylanders.

H.B. 631 will do nothing to offer relief to patients – it won’t lower prices. On the contrary, the Annapolis politicians pushing this “snake-oil” policy will drive generic drug companies out of Maryland. By boosting the government’s power to set drug prices or limit price increases for generic medicines, our elected officials in Annapolis are advancing policies that will have the unintended consequence of reducing competition and, therefore, limiting patient access to medicines and medical therapies.

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The bill allows the government to impose costs and regulatory burdens whenever bureaucrats believe that pricing of a medicine is “not justified.” However, H.B. 631 has no meaningful standard to allow healthcare firms to know if they are breaking the law. The bill does not define when or how a drug price is “not justified” or “excessive.”

If fewer affordable generic medicines are available in Maryland, patients suffer and healthcare costs will skyrocket. H.B. 631 will push generic competitors out of the state while its massive, new regulatory regime will add costs to the rising expense of producing these drugs.

By artificially interfering in this marketplace, the Maryland state legislature will establish a burdensome bureaucracy that will drive up medical costs and limit patient choice. The political class, not patients, will rule the marketplace, destroying competition.

The competitive marketplace of generic medicines substantially drives down drug prices for patients.  Generic medicines saved Maryland $3.7 billion in 2015. Nationwide these medicines are 89% of prescriptions dispensed, but only 27% of total drug costs resulting in $227 billion in total savings in 2015. The overall price of generics fell over 8% in 2016, and prices are down over 70% since 2008. Yet, Maryland politicians want our state to become the first in the nation to deliberately push generics out of the marketplace.

Maryland’s attempt at bureaucratic price manipulation will end up hurting all patients, but such government meddling will hurt the sickest and poorest patients the most.

We all agree – Democrats, Republicans, liberals, conservatives – that controlling the rise of medical costs is a priority. However, H.B. 631 will kill, not cure the patient. This bill will limit access and increase the price of life-saving medicines; it will make things worse, not better, for Maryland patients and our economy.

Better value and lower prices for medicines can be achieved without compromising patient access. But instead of exercising greater control over the marketplace, true reformers should focus on innovation and competition.

Price controls and added regulatory burdens on the generic drug marketplace will sacrifice the future healthcare of all Marylanders in exchange for a short-term, feel-good political fix. If H.B. 631 passes through the Maryland legislature, our elected officials will be celebrating a Pyrrhic victory today by compromising on tomorrow’s innovation and access to new cures.

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