ALBANY — Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo ended his State of the State tour Wednesday by proposing an innovative plan to limit the cost of prescription drugs and revived his ethics agenda by calling for term limits and other measures.
“Some of these companies are just unconscionable,” Cuomo said of drug companies that charge what he called exorbitant rates. “The idea that in 2017 someone who has fallen ill might not have the opportunity to recover simply so someone can line their pockets with a few more dollars is unconscionable and must be stopped immediately.”
His proposal to the State Legislature would cap the price of drugs sold in the state’s Medicaid health care program for the poor, but would also create a Drug Utilization Review Board to set prices in the private marketplace for certain high-cost prescription drugs. If a company exceeded the prices set for the drug, the state would hit the company with a surcharge for the difference, Cuomo said. That revenue would go to health plans to reduce the cost of health insurance.
Senate Health Committee Chairman Kemp Hannon (R-Garden City) said Cuomo’s proposals are similar to those already in the Senate over the last year. He said the Senate’s bill against price-gouging — defined as a 100-percent rise in price within 12 months — failed to gain the Assembly’s approval last year. He also said the Senate favors a surcharge on drug manufacturers that charge exorbitant prices, “but it is just enormously difficult to determine what is an exorbitant price.”
In his latest annual pitch for ethics reform, Cuomo struck a far more understanding posture with the legislature and acknowledged that scandal has hit not just the legislature, but his own office.
Relations between the governor and legislature hit a new low after Cuomo tried to require the legislature to adopt the same ethics measures before he would approve a raise for lawmakers.
“I understand the legislature’s frustration,” Cuomo said at the state University at Albany. “They will say one bad apple doesn’t spoil the bunch and understand that . . . there’s truth in the legislature’s frustration. But the public’s support is important. We are limited by our public support.”
Cuomo called for turning the constitutionally defined part-time legislature into full time, which would probably include increasing the base pay of $79,500. He also called for a four-year limit for current legislators and eight-year limit for newcomers joining the legislature after the next election in two years. He also would require legislators to get an independent advisory opinion before taking on an outside job to avoid conflicts of interest; public financing of political campaigns to limit big-money donors; more disclosure of finances by local officials; closing the “pure loophole” for companies that exceed corporate limit of $5,000 by establishing limited liability companies with few limits; and making the legislature subject to the state Freedom of Information Law.
He would also ban campaign contributions from companies as they seek public contracts and to ban campaign contributions from the winner for six months after the contract is awarded.