Prescription costs

TRENTON — Legislators and state committees met Monday to discuss several health care-related bills that aim to benefit pediatric cancer research and reduce prescription costs for New Jersey patients.

A bill sponsored by Assemblywoman BettyLou DeCroce, R-Morris, is designed to reduce out-of-pocket costs for some prescription drug plans and would cap the patient’s share of the cost of medications.

The state Financial In-stitutions and Insurance Committee approved the legislation Monday.

“Many people with high cost-sharing plans don’t take vital medications prescribed by their doctors because they can’t afford their co-pays,” she said in a statement. “The result is poor health outcomes and increased long-term costs for chronically ill patients.”

The bill would cap out-of-pocket costs for people who have insurance through the individual market and small em-ployers, the state’s health benefits program and the school employees’ health benefits program.

Another piece of legislation targets prescription costs by protecting insured patients from higher pricing.

A bipartisan bill sponsored by Assemblyman Ron Dancer, R-Ocean, and Assemblymen Bruce Land and Bob Andrzejczak, both D-Atlantic, Cape May and Cumberland, would ban the use of co-pay “claw backs” to increase profits made on low-cost generic drugs.

Pharmacy benefit managers, the middlemen who control prescription drug plans for health insurers, “claw back” by setting co-pay amounts higher than the cash price of some commonly prescribed medicines, legislators said.

The bill, which passed the Financial Institutions and Insurance Committee on Monday, also would ban gag clauses in insurance contracts that prevent pharmacies from informing customers their prescription would cost less if they paid in cash.

“Patients who need prescriptions for their health should not be subjected to profit-motivated deception,” Dancer said in a statement. “We’re going to eliminate the games and make the process fair and transparent.”

New Jersey would be the seventh state in three years to ban gag clauses and the 12th state to outlaw co-pay claw backs.

Taxpayers would be able to make contributions toward cancer research on their state income tax returns if legislation establishing the New Jersey Pediatric Cancer Research Fund passes.

The bill, which passed the Senate Health and Human Services Committee on Monday, would allow people to donate a portion of their income tax refund to support pediatric cancer research projects approved by the New Jersey State Commission on Cancer Research.

Bill sponsor Sen. Joe Pennacchio, R-Essex, Morris, Passaic, said the bill honors Aaron Newton, a boy from West Milford, Passaic County, who survived cancer.

“It’s upsetting to see that only 4 percent of federal cancer research funds are dedicated to pediatric cancer,” Pennacchio said in a statement. “this new fund will help the smallest superheroes who have the biggest battles.”

The bill heads to the full Senate for a vote.

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Contact: 609-272-7022 Twitter @ACPressNLeonard

Previously interned and reported for, The Asbury Park Press, The Boston Globe

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