In testimony this week to support Senate Bill 485, bill sponsor Sen. Kristen McDonald Rivet, D-Bay City, said she watched her mother die, “in part,” because she couldn’t afford all of her prescription medications on her fixed income.

Rivet and her twin sister, Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald, and their respective husbands have been tremendously successful in their chosen careers. Kristen and Karen’s mother Kathryn McDonald died in 2021 at the age of 74 from Lupus.

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SB 485 passed the Senate on Wednesday on a strictly partisan 10-17 vote. If it becomes law, it will establish a Prescription Drug Affordability Board, which will be comprised of five governor appointees.

“According to testimony before the Senate Committee on Finance, Insurance, and Consumer Protection, some people believe that the cost of prescription drugs is too high and requires individuals to choose between necessary medication and essential goods and services,” Senate Fiscal Agency Legislative Analyst Eleni Lionas wrote.” To address this concern, it has been suggested that an Affordability Board be formed to conduct cost affordability reviews and set upper payment limits for certain drugs.”

In her testimony, Rivet said: “It should not take a Herculean effort for someone to get life-saving drugs. It should not break families’ backs, and we cannot allow Michiganders to die needlessly because they can’t afford their prescription drugs.”

The Michigan Chamber of Commerce opposes the bill.

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In a letter dated Sept. 27, the Chamber noted: “Government-imposed price controls on select medications do not reflect the reality of the market. Vital research will go unpursued.”

Sen. Lana Theis, R-Brighton, also opposed the measure.

“If manufacturers really are motivated by greed, as has been alleged, such companies will choose to limit or prohibit sales in Michigan in response to the board’s mandates because they will neither innovate nor sell at a loss, which would then make these drugs less available to Michiganders,” she said.

“Senate Bill 485 would have an uncertain fiscal impact on the Department of Health and Human Services,” according to the Senate Fiscal Agency analysis. “If the board established upper payment limits on drugs purchased, billed, or reimbursed for directly by the medical assistance program (Medicaid), there could be a reduction in prescription drug-related expenditures. Since it is not known what drugs could be subject to this requirement as well as how those drugs would interact with the single Medicaid formulary and negotiated prescription drug rebates, the fiscal impact is uncertain. The fiscal impact is contingent upon which drugs were selected by the Board, the price of the drug net of any rebates, and the interaction of the upper payment limit with Federal law governing the Medicaid program’s coverage of prescription drugs.”

A separate bill, SB 483, covers the salaries and expenses of the PDAB. The Fiscal Agency says costs of the PDAB could total between $4 million and $5 million annually.