Senate Bill looks to cut some out of pocket medication costs

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - For millions of people who live with arthritis, multiple sclerosis and many other chronic diseases and disorders, there is a steep price for relief.

"It's not unusual for arthritis medicines to cost $900 to $6000 a month," said Karen Kennedy with the Arthritis Association of Louisiana.

With many chronic conditions, the only effective treatment available is a group of drugs that the insurance industry classifies as "specialty tier."  This means there isn't a cheaper, generic alternative and they are usually very expensive.

Kennedy knows the struggle many patients have covering out of pocket costs of treatment.  One such cost is called a co-insurance fee, which insurance companies add on to these specialty tier meds in addition to a patient's co-pay. Kennedy says the extra fee can cost anywhere from 10 to 30 percent of the cost of medication which can translate into thousands of dollars.

"You don't ever what to put someone in the position of having to choose medication over food, clothing and shelter," said Kennedy.

State lawmakers hope to cut that extra fee, with Senate Bill 165.  If approved, this bill would put a cap on the co-insurance fee, making sure patients pay a fee no more than $150 per medication, per month.  Kennedy says insurance companies have been working with groups like hers and with lawmakers to come up with a compromise.

"It's in their best interest that patients get these drugs and stay on their medication and see a quality of life improvement," said Kennedy.

Senate Bill 165 has been approved by the Senate, and has passed through the House Committee on Insurance.  It now goes to the House Floor for consideration.

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