Senate overturns Hogan’s veto over funding drug affordability board

The Maryland Senate voted to override several of Gov. Larry Hogan’s vetoes Friday, including a measure that would fund the Prescription Drug Affordability Board. The board, which is already established, is the first of its kind in the country and is designed to keep rising drug costs in check. The veto override vote passed 30-15, which is one more yes vote than was needed for a two-thirds majority.

 

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The measure, SB 669, passed the Senate unanimously and by nearly a bipartisan split in the House of Delegates in March. The bill would fund the board by drug manufacturers, insurers, wholesalers and pharmaceutical managers. There are approximately 1,400 such entities in the state, according to Vinny DeMarco, president of the Maryland Citizens Health Initiative.

Hogan’s surprise veto of the bill in May was “incomprehensible,” DeMarco said.

“It’s a very reasonable law,” he said. “No one testified against it.”

The fees can only raise up to $2 million, he said. The board expects it can function with $1.4 million, which will allow it to start paying back its $750,000 loan from the state.

The House still needs to vote to overturn the veto, which will likely happen in February, DeMarco said. A veto override by the House of Delegates is expected, but not guaranteed.

“The board has already started its work with preliminary funding and is doing a great job exploring the impact of rising drug costs across the state,” DeMarco said.

DeMarco said about a dozen other states are watching the board and the outcome of the veto votes. The next board meeting is set for Monday, 2 to 4 p.m. DeMarco will be testifying.

“Other states are following our lead by moving to create similar boards,” DeMarco said. “Establishing permanent funding for the board will guarantee it has the resources it needs to effectively address the issue of rising drug costs.”

The Prescription Drug Affordability Board is an independent unit of Maryland’s state government designed to keep down the high cost of prescription drugs. The five board members are from different silos of health care and are appointed by several branches of elected government officials. The board has an executive director, general counsel and staff.