Prepared by: Eric Gally | Gally Public Affairs

Typically, the fourth year of the Maryland General Assembly’s cycle is low-key with legislators gearing up for elections as much as focusing on legislation. The 2018 session was no exception to that rule. Legislators were looking more for practical fixes than significant changes in policy.  With that in mind, our initiative to change the tobacco purchase age from 18 to 21 was seriously discussed in both chambers but was put on that back burner for another year. Advocates and legislative leaders have been working hard on that legislation in the interim and are ready for a serious run in 2019.

Legislators continued tweaking measures passed in 2017 aimed at stabilizing the Maryland health insurance market against changes made at the federal level. Senate Bill 387 of 2018 assesses a health insurance provider fee — for 2019 only — that raises about $280 million for the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange to subsidize and stabilize rates.  As a result, most policies will be cheaper in 2019 than they were for 2018.

The General Assembly also worked hard on the opioid epidemic – with one focus being a planned increase for providers. Governor Hogan had sought to reduce the increase but the General Assembly voted for the full 3.5 percent that was included in the “Keep the Door Open” legislation enacted in 2017.

After considering and tabling several measures tackling rising prescription drug prices, legislators enacted Senate Bill 576/House Bill 736 (both passed) establishing that a pharmacy benefits manager may not prohibit a pharmacy or pharmacist from (1) providing a beneficiary with information regarding the retail price for a prescription drug or the amount of the beneficiary’s cost share for the drug; (2) discussing the retail price or cost share amount with the beneficiary; or (3) if the requirements for a therapeutic interchange (a change from one prescription to another) are met, selling the more affordable alternative to the beneficiary. Additional measures, including creating a prescription drug cost commission, will be back in 2019.

Speaking of 2019, there will be a lot of turnover after the November election and there will be a bunch of freshman legislators. It will be vital that we get to these new folks early and introduce ourselves and our agenda so they know what they are voting on. We will provide a list of new legislators when it becomes available in December.

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