Democratic candidate Shelly Simonds has a plan to lower drug costs

By Keya Vakil

August 9, 2019

Shelly Simonds has one big takeaway from her time on the campaign trail in Newport News: People are concerned about the cost of prescription drugs and want someone to do something about it. Simonds is hoping to be that someone. 

Simonds spoke about the issue of prescription drug costs and her plan to address them in a recent Facebook Live video. Inspired by a bill that passed in Maryland, Simonds wants to set up a state review board that could lead the state to set caps on prescription drug price increases. 

Under the plan, the Board would study price caps and look at alternatives, including buying medication in bulk. 

The Board could then recommend price caps, and if “either the Legislative Policy Council or the governor and attorney general agree, the idea is to implement them for government plans such as public employee coverage and Medicaid by 2022,” the Daily Press reports. The Board and state would then determine if caps should be extended to cover all prescription drug sales.

“The idea is to really look at prescription drugs more like we look at essential utilities like our electricity, our water; things that are a public good that need to have price restriction on increases,” Simonds said during her livestream.

Simonds also revealed that the issue is personal for her; her father is a diabetic and she’s watched her mother struggle to find affordable insulin for him in recent years.

“It just breaks my heart that she has to spend her retirement years managing medication purchases and shopping around for the best price,” Simonds said in the video.

The price of insulin has nearly tripled in the past decade, mirroring the broader pharmaceutical market. Americans spent $535 billion on prescription drug costs in 2018, a 50% increase since 2010, according to an estimate from Pew Charitable Trusts.

As costs have been rising, drug costs have become a key political issue. More than half (55%) of Virginians have had trouble affording health care in the last year, and 78% are worried about affording health care in the future, according to the Virginia Consumer Healthcare Experience State Survey (CHESS).

That same survey found that 63% of Virginians cited healthcare as a top issue they want lawmakers to work on in the coming year, with 55% saying they want the government to address high health care costs, including the rising cost of prescription drugs.

Simonds said fighting drug costs shouldn’t be a partisan issue and called on the state of Virginia to be innovative in its attempts to lower the cost of prescription drugs.

Simonds believes her plan could help address the issue, but for her to introduce such a bill, she needs to win her election first.

Simonds will face off against Del. David Yancey (R-Newport News) this November in a re-match of their 2017 race that was decided by a coin flip after both candidates received the same number of votes. Should Simonds win, she could help Democrats end years of GOP inaction on drug costs in Virginia.

  • Keya Vakil

    Keya Vakil is the deputy political editor at COURIER. He previously worked as a researcher in the film industry and dabbled in the political world.

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