Maryland’s presiding officers and its attorney general on Thursday announced the members of the nation’s first drug affordability board, but it’s unclear when the panel’s work will begin because Gov. Larry Hogan (R) has not released the money to pay for it.
The governor’s decision not to release funding for the new board is part of a protracted and bitter battle between Hogan and the Democratic-controlled legislature over budget priorities. Earlier this year, the legislature earmarked $245 million for dozens of programs, including school buildings and rape-kit testing, that the governor so far has refused to fund. State lawmakers set aside $750,000 for the drug affordability board.
A Hogan spokesman said the governor is looking for ways to staff the board “without a need for new funding,” including “working with our Health Department to stand up the board.”
The General Assembly, hoping to rein in drug costs, passed legislation to create a drug affordability board that would cap the costs of certain prescription drugs when purchased by state and local government employers. If successful, it could be expanded to other employers. The board’s decisions to set caps would have to be approved by the Legislative Policy Committee, a panel of top state lawmakers.
On Thursday, state Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert), House Speaker Adrienne A. Jones (D-Baltimore County) and Attorney General Brian E. Frosh (D) named members to the board.
Jones and Miller jointly named former secretary of health Van T. Mitchell as the chair of the panel. Mitchell is a former lobbyist and member of the House of Delegates. He served as health secretary for almost two years under Hogan.
“I’m thrilled to see Maryland is taking the lead on tackling this issue and welcome the opportunity to work toward a long-term solution that will reduce prescription drug costs for all Marylanders,” Mitchell said in a statement.
Joining him on the board is Eberechukwu Onukwugha, an associate professor in the Department of Pharmaceutical Health Services Research at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy; George S. Malouf, an ophthalmologist; and Gerard F. Anderson, the director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Hospital Finance and Management.