A bill intended to lower the cost of HIV medications is gaining little traction in Tallahassee.
According to the office of Representative Carlos Guillermo Smith, House Bill 1405 is “not moving.” The bill, touted as bipartisan effort to improve health equity and quality care for people living with HIV, currently sits in the house health innovation subcommittee and has yet to receive a hearing.
The bill, Smith said, would prohibit HMOs from classifying prescriptions for people living with HIV at the highest tier in regards to copays and deductibles.
“Our bill allows the prescribing physician, not HMO bureaucrats, to decide the appropriate drug refills, step therapy requirements, drug quantities and utilization techniques that will be in the best interest of the health of the patient,” said Smith, a gay Democrat from Orlando.
Jason King, legislative affairs manager for the AIDS Healthcare Foundation’s Southern Bureau, said adjustments to prescription drug pricing are vital.
“We have been hearing from our patients that they cannot afford the medications that are being prescribed to them by their doctors,” King told SFGN. “Over the years, insurers have purposefully designed their plans to discourage HIV+ patients from enrolling by requiring excessively high deductibles, and medication copays and coinsurance. Knowing they can’t meet the required cost share, patients seek health plans elsewhere, or they enroll into these cost-prohibitive plans without the ability to consistently afford their medications.”
In 2015, the Florida Department of Health reported 4,868 diagnosed HIV/AIDS cases. FDH estimates there are 127,589 Floridians living with HIV and of that figure – 12.4 percent are unaware of their status.
Expensive remedies to HIV infection are a deterrent to treatment, King said.
“What’s worse is some patients forgo enrolling into a plan altogether, meaning they may not be taking their medications needed to remain virally suppressed and not transmit HIV to others,” King said. “Florida has some of the highest rates of new HIV infections in the country. The only way that’s going to change is if every person living with HIV can afford and take the medications they need.”
SFGN contacted Smith’s Tallahassee office Friday morning for an update on HB 1405. Ida Eskamani, Smith’s legislative assistant said the bill has not been placed on the house health innovation subcommittee agenda.
Senator Rene Garcia, a Hialeah Republican, has filed a companion bill which currently sits in the senate banking and insurance committee. There have been no votes recorded on Garcia’s bill.
Such feet dragging by lawmakers is not helping matters, said King.
“The Legislature should take seriously the affordability of HIV drugs if the state truly wants to achieve zero infections in Florida,” King said. “These bills are about patients being able to afford the medications they need to live and thrive, and we at AHF are going to do everything we can to support Senator Garcia and Representative Smith and their efforts around these bills.”