Vermont to submit in-process drug importation plan to feds

November 26, 2019

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — Vermont is preparing to submit to the federal government some details of its plan to import prescription drugs from Canada as a way to save money for the state’s consumers, top officials said Tuesday.

The “concept paper” that Republican Gov. Phil Scott and others spoke of Tuesday during a meeting at Scott’s office is separate from a formal application the state will submit to the federal Department of Health and Human Services by July 1.

“I think it’s important to do what we can and do it in a public way because our small size cuts both ways,” Scott said “It also allows us to be nimble, and coupled with our proximity to Canada, puts us in a position to be a leader on this policy.”

Last year, the Vermont Legislature passed a first-in-the nation law that would allow for the importation of prescription drugs from Canada as a way to save money. But before that plan can go forward it needs federal approval.

Last summer, the Trump administration announced its intention to create a way for Americans to legally and safely import lower-cost prescription drugs from Canada.

Vermont is working with Florida, Colorado and Maine to prepare the proposals.

In August, Florida submitted its own concept paper. The Vermont officials said one goal of submitting its concept plan is to differentiate its proposal from the Florida proposal.

One key difference between the two plans is that Vermont would allow commercial insurers to participate in the program in addition to public payers. The Florida plan is limited to public payers.

Vermont officials had estimated a drug importation plan could save between $1 million and $5 million, but the calculation did not include all of Vermont’s health insurers. The calculation was also made before officials realized insulin, one of the most common and expensive drugs used by consumers, is not eligible for any importation plan.

Officials are now recalculating the estimated savings and Vermont is planning to ask health and human services to allow insulin to be included among the drugs that could be imported, said Vermont Health Care Reform Director Ena Backus.