North Dakota lawmakers urged to look at drug costs, fraud restitution
(Prairie News Service) North Dakota lawmakers are scheduled to return to Bismarck early next month. They'll hear calls to help older residents, with the cost of prescription drugs at the top of the list.
State lawmakers debated how to deal with rising costs during the last session, including the adoption of a price transparency program.
But advocates say more needs to be done. Janelle Moos - advocacy director for AARP North Dakota - said based on their outreach, these costs remain a top concern, while adding it's not just something that impacts those 50 and older.
"The high cost of medicine impacts all North Dakotans," said Moos, "and so we're really looking at policies that could help continue to put some downward pressure on those prices."
An interim committee recently studied the issue, and a bill that surfaced calls for the creation of a pilot program tied to the Public Employees Retirement System.
It would look at the top 25 costliest medications and compare them to Canadian prices with the hope of making them more affordable.
Moos acknowledged that plans like these will encounter pushback from the pharmaceutical industry.
More broadly, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America says such efforts will lead to fewer new cures and treatments.
Meanwhile, as law enforcement and consumer advocates amplify warnings about scams and their impact on vulnerable residents, AARP is asking for a restitution fund.
Moos said the prevalence of these cases should prompt compensation.
"We're not trying to make victims whole, but we're really looking at ways to shine a light that consumer fraud is a crime," said Moos. "And there are victims that are impacted by it, often losing hundreds of thousands of dollars."
Funding accessible and affordable housing, as well as safe and cost friendly long-term care services are other priorities of senior advocates.
Lawmakers will have additional issues commanding their attention, including childcare improvements and debates over agriculture regulations.