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Vermont Legislature
Follow VPR's statehouse coverage, featuring Pete Hirschfeld and Bob Kinzel in our Statehouse Bureau in Montpelier.

Plan To Import Prescription Drugs From Canada Finds Strong Support At Vermont Statehouse

House Speaker Mitzi Johnson and Senate President Tim Ashe have a plan to avoid a government shutdown on July 1st if lawmakers are still at an impasse with Governor Phil Scott over property tax rates
Meg Malone
VPR File
On Wednesday, the Vermont House voted in favor of a bill designed to reduce the cost of prescription drugs. The Vermont Senate passed similar legislation earlier in the session.

With a vote of 141 to 2, the Vermont House has given its strong support to a bill that's designed to significantly reduce the cost of expensive prescription drugs.

Rep. Bill Lippert, chair of the House Committee on Health Care, says the measure is needed because the cost of many drugs has skyrocketed in the past few years.

"It's just impossible to access them unless you have really adequate health insurance, and sometimes even having adequate health insurance is not sufficient," Lippert said.

"It's just impossible to access them unless you have really adequate health insurance, and sometimes even having adequate health insurance is not sufficient." — Rep. Bill Lippert, House Health Care Committee chair

Lippert says that under this bill, a state entity would be created to act like a wholesaler to purchase drugs from Canada and make them available to pharmacies in Vermont.

"The proposal is to be able to import safe, reliable, cheaper prescription drugs," Lippert said, "and only those drugs where there would be substantial savings to Vermonters in need of these drugs."  

Lippert says he’s encouraged that the state of Utah is developing a similar plan and has offered to help Vermont develop its own program.

Lippert says the plan will require a waiver from the federal government before it can be put into place. He's hopeful that approval will be granted next year because the Trump administration has indicated a strong interest in lowering prescription drug costs.

The House bill is similar to legislation already passed by the Senate. Leaders in the Senate will now decide if they want to accept the House version of the bill or propose some changes for the House to consider.

Bob Kinzel has been covering the Vermont Statehouse since 1981 — longer than any continuously serving member of the Legislature. With his wealth of institutional knowledge, he answers your questions on our series, "Ask Bob."
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