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State Lawmakers Consider Bills To Address Rising Prescription Drug Prices

DENVER (CBS4) - As a group at the Colorado Capitol tries to put the brakes on the runaway cost of health care, some lawmakers are demanding more transparency from insurers, hospitals and pharmaceutical companies.

A bill being heard this week would require pharmaceutical companies to give notice of big price increases and justify them. Insurers would also need to report which drugs had the highest price increases each year.

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That prescription drug bill is one of three that were being considered in a committee Thursday that address the escalating cost of health care.

"This legislation is part of a bigger movement across the country to understand the cost of health care and the cost of medications people need," said state Rep. Dominique Jackson, a Democrat from Aurora.

Jackson and state Rep. Joann Ginal, a Democrat who represents Larimer County, are sponsors of the bill.

Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America insists the problem is with distributors and insurers, not them.

"Meaningful transparency for patients would be more information about why they're paying what they are through their insurance plan and whether or not they are seeing the benefit of the rebates and discounts manufacturers are giving to insurers," said PhRMA spokeswoman Caitlyn Carroll.

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Gail Devore was among those who testified before lawmakers on Thursday. She takes insulin for type one diabetes. The drug is 100 years old but the price has jumped 220 percent in recent years.

"All we're asking is for information. No price limits, no regulatory limits. We're just asking for information," she said.

The committee also heard a bill aimed at bringing more transparency to hospital costs.

The state reimburses hospitals for uncompensated care -- $2.5 billion a year. Even as that reimbursement has increased, hospitals have shifted more costs to privately insured patients.

The bill would require hospitals to share more financial data with the state to track which hospitals are the worst offenders.

"What we're hoping to do with the information is use it to shape how we are spending these public dollars now. Are we giving enough to rural hospitals? And when see 40 percent profits at for-profit hospitals in the Denver metro area, it does beg the question," said state Rep. Chris Kennedy, a Democrat from Jefferson County.

The hospital transparency bill has Democrat and Republican sponsors and a good shot at passing, according to CBS4 Political Specialist Shaun Boyd.

The pharamaceutical transparency bill passed out of committee in a party line vote on Thursday and it will very likely pass in the Democratic-controlled house. But Boyd reports it will have a tough time making it out of the Republican controlled Senate which has already killed a bill that would prohibit price gouging.

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