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Michigan Rep. Carrie Rheingans introduces bill to lower medical costs

Michigan Rep. Carrie Rheingans introduces bill to lower medical costs
Michigan Rep. Carrie Rheingans introduces bill to lower medical costs 02:17

(CBS DETROIT) -The cost of medical treatment certainly isn't going down in Michigan, and one state lawmaker wants to make sure the money residents shell out for copays is counted towards your deductible. 

"I've experienced a lot of tears and anger finding out by a phone call saying I owe a $12,000, $5,500 payment for these drugs out of nowhere," said Emily Schaller a cystic fibrosis survivor. Schaller joined state Rep. Carrie Rheingans on Tuesday to introduce legislation that would require all copays for medical treatment to count towards a patient's deductible. 

In some cases, nonprofit organizations and even drug companies help patients pay their copays so they can afford their medication. 

"Unfortunately a growing number of insurance companies and PBMs or pharmacy benefit managers are using copay adjustment accumulator programs that prohibit the value of this assistance from applying to a patient's deductible or out-of-pocket maximum for the year," said Rheingans. 

This trend, advocates tell CBS News Detroit, can be devastating for people with a high deductible and expensive medications or treatments. 

"You have to remember cancer patients are not just on one medication, they're on several. They see several physicians, it's an accumulation of things. It's so it's very stressful on patients," said Cathy Patterson a financial navigator with the Michigan Society of Hematology and Oncology.

Legislation that tackles this issue has been introduced in Michigan before-- in previous attempts it passed the House but stalled in the Senate. Rheingans says she's optimistic this time around and Schaller says it would be a huge relief if it can get across the finish line. 

"I wait to fill my prescriptions because just the anger and frustration and sadness that comes with getting told, you owe this much money. It'd be a huge relief," Schaller said. 

CBS News Detroit reached out to three health insurance providers here in Michigan for comment.

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