June 16, 2020 Print

Sutherland Institute, an Atlas Network partner, has been working to expose and address an inefficient and non-transparent healthcare system in their home state of Utah. Their efforts have contributed to the passage of four state legislative bills dealing with prescription drugs and pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) in 2020. 

“What Utah requires is the will to pursue common ground on health care affordability and find a consensus focused on the well-being of patients and their families,” wrote Sutherland’s Derek Monson and Courtney Bullard in The Salt Lake Tribune. The four bills that passed include mechanisms to increase access to affordable insulin; changes to requirements and reporting provisions for pharmacy benefit managers; and urges congressional action on rising drug prices. 

The Sutherland Institute produced a series of short essays and opinion editorials to paint a broad picture of drug pricing and healthcare cost inflation and to offer policy prescriptions on how to normalize the pharmaceutical market. The articles were posted on the Sutherland Institute website, as well as published in the Salt Lake Tribune, Deseret News, and Salt Lake City Weekly, garnering thousands of hits and reaching a potential statewide audience of millions of readers. Sutherland also produced an easy-to-understand video to help the public understand how drug prices are set and manipulated. 

To reach out to a more leveraged audience, Sutherland hosted a coalition-building event in Salt Lake City to facilitate civil dialogue and convene elected officials, stakeholders, and community leaders on the question of prescription drug costs. “Reigning in the Cost of Healthcare” featured a panel discussion around drug pricing and recommendations for reform, as well as a presentation from Congressman Ben McAdams.

Sutherland Institute’s activism on the cost of prescription drugs helped generate significant public support for reform, and the team plans to continue advocating for systemic change through both public education and making recommendations to lawmakers. “We have stirred a hornet’s nest in Utah as lobbyists for the PMBs are now alert to our efforts,” explained Sutherland’s president and CEO Rick Larsen. “It is important that we continue to work with the legislature on small wins that speed access, choice, and transparency.”

Sutherland Institute received an Atlas Network grant in support of this project.

Text of Utah state legislative bills: