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Oppose bill that will increase drug prices on Illinois families 

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By Marty Castro*

For nearly 70 years, Casa Central has been transforming lives and serving Latino communities in Chicago. What started as a humble organization committed to helping newly arrived immigrants and their families is now the largest social services agency in the Midwest serving Latinos. It’s an impactful legacy and one that we’re proud to carry on.

Every day, our staff listens to the community’s needs and works tirelessly to try to meet those needs. There is no shortage of challenges for the families we serve. Over the years, we’ve heard from an increasing number of families that the stress of affording health care and prescription drugs is becoming just too much to bear. The data backs this up. A recent study by the Pew Research Center found that Latino adults are less likely than other Americans to have health insurance and to receive preventative medical care. Racial discrimination, poverty, and language barriers – all exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic – have contributed to poor health outcomes for our community.

That’s why I am so concerned to learn that state lawmakers are currently considering HB 4548, a bill that will raise the overall cost of prescription drugs in Illinois. This legislation will add a $10.49 fee to most prescriptions filled at the pharmacy counter. That’s more than $600 in new healthcare costs each year for a family with five prescriptions! Illinois small businesses and families, and especially the Latino families we serve, are already stretched thin, working hard and making sacrifices every day to give their children a better quality of life. They also shouldn’t have to contend with rising healthcare costs.

Our lawmakers should do everything in their power to make prescription drugs more affordable, not more expensive. This starts with protecting pharmacy benefits, a tool that small businesses, unions and other employers rely on to keep medications affordable for their employees. Having pharmacy benefits means having a partner who will negotiate against big drug companies to lower costs.  It also means providing patients with access to prescription drugs in ways that work best for them, including delivery right to their front door. This is especially critical for the seniors we serve, many of whom are housebound or have mobility issues, and for working parents with young children who might have difficulty getting to a pharmacy when it’s open. Under the very same bill that would add the $10+ fee, lower-cost home delivery options would be outlawed – to the detriment of families and seniors.

Every parent wants their child to have more opportunities than they did, and the families that Casa Central serves are no exception. Like all communities, our community deserves access to quality and affordable health care and prescription drugs. That’s why this legislative session,

I’m calling on our lawmakers to focus on making our healthcare system more equitable for all by protecting pharmacy benefits and rejecting HB 4548.

*MartyCastro is the CEO of Casa Central and Co-Chair of Two-Thirds United