2021 Legislative & Annual Report: Access to Medications

Medical Cannabis

On an elaborate marble floor, two men in business dress, in manual wheelchairs, sit laughing.For Deputy Executive Director Chase Bearden, the care access issue that has come to the fore in recent sessions is medical cannabis. The development of a robust Texas Compassionate Use Program (TCUP) has been incremental, and 2021's HB 1535 (Klick) builds upon previous years' progress. This bill adds PTSD and non-terminal cancer to the list of qualifying diagnoses for participation in TCUP and doubles the legal amount of THC in medical cannabis products.

Chase and our team will continue working in this area, but for now, we are encouraged that Governor Abbott signed HB 1535 into law—while just a few short years ago, he was hard NO on any medical cannabis legislation. Left, Chase with long-time partner and cannabis advocate, Shawn Meredith, following a press conference in support of HB 1535.

Hepatitis C

CTD leadership on Hepatitis C treatment goes back to 2014, when we presented information on the then-new Hep C cure drug to the Sunset Advisory Commission and subsequently pushed hard for inclusion of the medicines in the Medicaid formulary. Since then, CTD continued its strong advocacy to improve access, including making these cures available to patients before reaching an advanced disease state. CTD was also the only consumer advocacy organization to testify this year in support of legislation and an appropriation that resulted in SCR 31 (Kolkhorst). SCR 31, signed by the governor, made permanent the access changes in disease states and appropriated a minimum of $51.1 million.

Pharmaceutical Policy

As a member of the Coalition for Stable Patients, CTD worked hard to pass HB 1646 (Lambert), which would have helped Texas patients by reforming the insurance practice of “non-medical switching.” Non-medical switching occurs when health plans or pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) compel a stable patient to switch from their currently prescribed and covered treatments to an alternative medication preferred by the insurer–for non-medical reasons and without input from the treating physician. Unfortunately, our coalition ran out of time to get this legislation across the line in time.

During the regular session CTD along with a few partner organizations urged the Texas Legislature to step up and protect consumers from Copay Accumulators, a new insurance practice that raises individuals' healthcare costs. HB 2668 (Price) / SB 523 (Buckingham) would have ensured that health insurers apply ANY copayments toward a consumer’s deductible, copayment, cost-sharing responsibility, or out-of-pocket maximum requirements under that consumer’s health plan. However, this bill did not pass.

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