MINOT, N.D. — Our Legislature commences work in their latest regular session this week. Today is primarily speeches and ceremonies, but tomorrow the actual work begins, and one of the first bills to be heard in committee will be Senate Bill 2031, a proposal to control drug prices in North Dakota.
This isn’t a new debate. A similar bill was proposed and defeated last session .
The most recent iteration of the legislation, which has a big push behind it from the AARP , seeks to create a pilot program that would have our state insurance commissioner set the allowable prices for prescription drugs sold in North Dakota. But the commissioner wouldn’t have a lot of discretion. They would be required to set the price caps on par with the prices charged in Canada.
In Quebec, Alberta and British Columbia, specifically. Not only does this bill create price controls, but it exports the decision-making on that policy to a foreign government.
Any state entity, health plan, or pharmacy, charging above this price cap — euphemistically called the “reference price” in the bill — would be guilty of a misdemeanor crime. The bill also makes it illegal for drug providers to withdraw a drug from sale or distribution in our state to avoid these price controls, which I have to think is beyond the scope of the government’s authority. Price controls, odious as they may be, are one thing. But can the government really force a company to offer a product?