Brown Announces Importation Bill That Would Allow Ohioans to Purchase Safe, Affordable Medicine; Allowing Open Pharmaceutical Markets Would Introduce Competition to American Drug Market

WASHINGTON, D.C.—On the same day that a new report revealed that Ohioans spent more than $759 million last year on out-of-pocket health care costs, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) announced his support for a bipartisan bill that would allow for the safe importation of prescription drugs—from nations with strict drug safety standards—to ensure that Ohioans have access to affordable medications.

“The United States is the world’s largest market for prescription drugs, but we pay the world’s highest prices for medications,” Brown said. “Seniors in Ohio and elsewhere are taking bus trips into countries like Canada to gain access to lower-priced prescription medications. Americans are also using the internet to import drugs from across the world—which is potentially unsafe. Allowing the safe importation of prescription drugs from countries like Canada or Australia will help Ohioans afford the medications they need to stay healthy while ensuring that these drugs are safe, effective, and legitimate.”

Today, Families USA released a report showing that Ohio families spent more than $857 million last year on out-of-pocket heath care costs. The report shows that by 2014, more than 500,000 Ohioans who face catastrophic out-of-pocket health care costs will be protected by the health care reform law. The law contains a new provision that caps spending on out-of-pocket costs for consumers, which is especially critical for Ohioans facing cancer, another serious disease diagnosis, or are involved in a accident. The report also showed that the majority of these families—approximately two-thirds—are in working-class families.

“Ohio consumers, many of whom had health insurance, still faced huge out-of-pocket costs last year—to the tune of $759 million,” Brown said. "Thanks to our health care law, Ohio families will no longer have to worry about falling into bankruptcy or emptying their bank account when a medical emergency, such as a car accident or cancer, strikes.  Strong consumer protections in the law ensure that the consumer is in the driver's seat when it comes to health insurance. As Families USA highlighted today, more than half a million Ohioans will enjoy new protections that limit out-of-pocket expenses. Ohioans deserve need to know that their health insurance will be there for them when they need it most, and that's exactly what this law was designed to do."

Brown has been a leader on efforts to ensure that Ohioans can afford needed prescription drugs through increased access to lower-cost imported and generic medications. He has pushed to give consumers more timely access to generic biologic drugs, which are some of the priciest medications on the market and treat conditions such as Multiple Sclerosis and cancer. During the health reform debate, Brown spoke on the Senate floor in support of an amendment to allow safe drug importation and has been a sponsor of drug importation legislation in previous Congresses.

Brown has also held several events this year—in Cleveland, Toledo, Austintown, and Mansfield to date— aimed at educating seniors about new prescription drug benefits available to them through the health care reform law. Beginning January 1, 2011, the law provides Medicare beneficiaries with a 50 percent discount on brand-name prescription drugs and biologics if they enter the Medicare drug coverage gap, also known as the “donut hole.” Discounts will increase every year until 2020, when the “donut hole” will be completely filled and beneficiaries will only be responsible for the standard 25 percent co-insurance payment rather than the full 100 percent that they were paying prior to 2011.