Sen. Richard Moore and Rep. Patricia Walrath, co-chairs of the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing, joined the ACT!! Coalition to sponsor a press conference today on “minimum creditable coverage” (MCC) and prescription drug coverage. With 100 people in attendance — including Rep. John Scibak, Rep. Jim Marzilli and Rep. Steve D’Amico — the group heard a diverse panel of speakers explain why MCC must include a prescription drug benefit.
Speakers included two nationally renowned experts on drug coverage from Harvard Medical School – Dr. Jerry Avorn and Dr. Stephen Soumerai. Dr. Avorn explained that insurance without drug coverage is like a hospital johnny – poorly designed, cheaply made that leaves you exposed. Dr. Avorn said eliminating drug coverage to reach a quick fix to the problem of affordability “is no solution at all. … Prescriptions are at the center of modern medicine.” Dr. Soumerai insisted “insuring health without access to medicines is impossible.” Dr. Soumerai quoted studies showing that concerns about cost caused more than 50 percent of adults with chronic illnesses and without drug coverage to forgo prescribed medications, resulting in “a significant decline in health status” and an increase in adverse events (Click here for Dr. Avorn’s statement, and click here for Dr. Soumerai’s statement).
Rep. Walrath expressed surprise the Connector would consider not requiring drug coverage. Sen. Richard Moore, who was unable to attend, stated in a letter to the Board: “to exclude prescription drug coverage is, essentially, to exclude mental health benefits” and will lead to increased cost-sharing for patients (click here for Senator Moore’s letter). Richard Boyajian, a Nurse Practitioner, and Neil Cronin, of the MA Law Reform Institute, spoke about their personal experiences with illness, stating that without access to medication they literally would not be alive. John Auerbach of the Boston Public Health Commission (click here for his letter) highlighted the essential role of drugs in protecting public health and Toby Fisher, Executive Director of NAMI Massachusetts, explained that medications are a critical part of treatment for those with mental illness. Rev. Hurmon Hamilton from the Greater Boston Interfaith Organization said plans without drug coverage are not affordable; affordability must be measured by more than premiums.
Thanks to everyone who was able to attend and also to those who wrote letters in support of requiring prescription drugs to the Connector Board. About 25 statewide organizations and leaders have written letters to the Connector Authority urging inclusion of prescription drugs as a standard benefit.