States Passing Laws to Address High Drug Prices in Battle with BIG PHARMA’s Market and Political Power

  • The New York Times reported last week that 24 states have passed 37 laws this year to address high drug costs.  Among the most prominent bills are those which require the companies to justify their costs, a move the companies say violates their freedom of speech.   States are also trying to regulate pharmacy benefit managers which can give preferential treatment for drugs if the companies pay them rebates.

  • Utah is exploring importing drugs from Canada.

  • Connecticut passed a law requiring justification of price increases above 20% in one year or 50% in three years.  California passed a law requiring advance notice of drug price increases with explanations for those increases.  The pharmaceutical industry is suing.

  • The generic drug industry sued Maryland which passed a price gouging law that was thrown out by a federal court after the generic drug industry sued the state.

  •   New York has a ceiling on Medicaid drug prices and can seek higher rebates or cuts in drug prices if the budget exceeds its ceiling.   The article says state officials claimed $60 million in savings were negotiations because costs were going to exceed the cap.

  • In one of the most creative and intriguing actions Oklahoma will only pay for new drugs if they produce a value in treatment.  The article quoted  Nancy Nesser, the state’s Medicaid pharmacy director, “If a drug claims to keep people out of the hospital and doesn’t, the manufacturer may be liable for the cost of the hospitalization.”

Paid Family Leave Advocates Urge Cuomo to Veto Bill Adding Bereavement Leave to State Law

A Better Balance, one of the key organizations which mobilized support for New York’s Paid Family Leave law has announced it opposes legislation passed in June to add bereavement leave to the program.  While the organization is sympathetic to bereavement leave needs, it feels that the bill passed has no cost estimates and that it could drag the entire program down which is paid for by workers through the New York State disability program.  A Better Balance noted that there is no state or city in the country which has paid bereavement leave paid for by workers.  The state of Oregon and the city of Tacoma, Washington have laws that employees can use up to five days of paid sick leave which is paid by employers.

The state’s paid family leave program is being phased in and by 2021 will provide up to 12 weeks of paid time at up to 2/3 of salary to a statewide average for persons caring for a newborn, a seriously ill relative or to care for family  members because of military deployment.

Other organizations which worked for the current law are also concerned about the bereavement bill.  The current program went into effect in January 2018. Governor Cuomo has not yet received the bill from the Legislature and probably won’t before the primary on September 13.  He would have ten days to sign or veto it.

Cuomo to Decide on Controversial Bill Adding Bereavement to Paid Family Leave Law

A bill  (A10639-S8380) passed late in the New York State legislative session adds bereavement to the list of eligible situations that allow an employee to apply for paid family leave.   The bill has to be sent by the Legislature to the Governor and then he has ten days to decide whether to sign it.   The legislation was passed not as a result of advocacy by the Paid Family Leave coalition that successfully pushed the original bill.  Rather, it seems that legislators who lost loved ones pushed the bill and passed it.  Assemblymember Joseph Morelle and Senator Richard Funke were the prime sponsors of the bill which passed in the Assembly 111-32 on June 20th.  The sponsor’s bill memo stated:

Facing the death of a child may be the hardest thing a parent ever has
to do. People who have lost a child have stronger grief reactions and a
longer and slower bereavement and recovery should be expected when    someone loses a child. For those suffering the loss of a spouse or
someone loses a child or domestic partner; studies have shown that
mortality increases from  40% - 90% in the three months following 
the death of a spouse and lingers at 15% during the months after.

The new Paid Family Leave Law went into effect on January 1st of this year and by 2021 will allow 12 weeks of paid family leave with up to 2/3 of an employee’s salary paid up to a statewide average.  Current law allows paid family leave for three situations:  caring for a newborn, caring for a relative with a serious medical condition and for caring for family members when a member is deployed in the military.  There are concerns about the bereavement legislation’s cost if added to the current program.   Some business groups have come out against the addition saying it could disrupt their workforce if workers took bereavement leave on multiple occasions.   A death certificate would be required as proof for applying for the paid leave. Some employers currently offer several days of bereavement leave but certainly not twelve weeks.

Advocates of the bill cited how the death of a child could cause an inability to work for an extended period of time.  However, some are raising the issue of whether persons in that situation would be suffering from depression and should be considered for disability benefits instead.  The Governor has a choice to sign or veto the bill or he could not approve it and ask for amendments.   He could also veto it and say he would give it further study and follow up with a proposal next year.

He may also quietly urge the Legislature to not send the bill to him before the election so he can address it after the voting.