Gov. Brown Signs “Co-Pay Cap” Legislation Keeping Prescription Drugs Affordable

SB 1021 has been signed into law. Project Inform worked hard with our partners including Health Access on this bill which now explicitly protects PrEP as well. We continue to work with the Department of Managed Health Care on the monitoring of the legislation particularly in regard to the tiering of hepatitis C medications. 

For Immediate Release: September 26, 2018

Anthony Wright, Executive Director, Health Access California,, 916-870-4782 (cell)
Rachel Linn Gish, Director of Communications, Health Access California,, 916-532-2128 (cell)

  • Governor Brown signs SB 1021 (Wiener) ensuring the continued protection of Californians from extreme out-of-pocket costs for prescription drugs 
  • This new law will help shield some consumers from the skyrocketing cost of prescription drugs, building off of last year’s landmark drug price transparency law, SB 17
  • SB 1021 is part of the #Care4AllCA package of legislation to create a more affordable and accessible health care system

SACRAMENTO, CA – Governor Jerry Brown today signed SB 1021 by Senator Scott Wiener to protect consumers from facing extreme out-of-pocket costs for life-saving medications. This new law will ensure that those with serious chronic conditions do not face a spike in the price of their necessary prescription drugs.

In 2015, California passed AB 339 (Gordon) that capped the co-payment for a 30-day supply of prescription drugs to $250 in most health plans. The law also prohibited health plans from placing all of the drugs to treat a particular condition on the highest cost tier of a drug list (also called “formulary”). This prevented Californians with serious and chronic conditions like cancer, HIV/AIDS, multiple sclerosis (MS), and lupus who often rely on brand-name or specialty drugs with no generic alternative, from being forced to pay thousands of dollars for a single prescription. AB 339 was set to expire in 2019, but SB 1021 (Wiener) will now extend that sunset for this important patient protection.

“Drug co-pays should never be a barrier to people obtaining life-saving medications. Without caps on drug co-pays, too many people will either forego their medicine or have to make awful choices between obtaining medication and paying the rent,” said Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), the author of SB 1021. “The protections in SB 1021 will shield consumers from drug price gouging. We must also ensure that people have access to PrEP, which is crucial to ending new HIV infections. SB 1021 ensures that people are able to obtain PrEP and not be forced into an alternative regimen that is less effective. I want to thank Governor Brown for signing this important health care access bill.”

“In the face of a federal government which talks a big game on prescription drug prices but does very little, California is taking the lead to address the skyrocketing cost of our prescription drugs and shielding some consumers from huge cost increases,” said Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California, the statewide health care consumer advocacy coalition and supporter of SB 1021. “Last year, Governor Brown signed SB 17 to require transparency and justifications for prescription drug price spikes. With this new law, California consumers have new and extended patient protections to ensure that life-saving medications remain accessible and affordable. We cannot allow profiteering by pharmaceutical companies or insurers get in the way of providing patients the prescriptions they need.”

“The people who feel the brunt of soaring prescription drug prices are those living with chronic illnesses. When drugs get too expensive, it puts families in financial risk, and forces some to even skip or forgo their needed medications, putting their lives at risk,” continued Wright. “Now Californians with major conditions like MS, HEP-C, HIV or cancer can have the peace of mind knowing that they will not face bills of thousands of dollars for one month of necessary medications.”

SB 1021 is one of seven bills that are part of the Care4All California package that have been signed by Governor Brown. Together these bills take key steps to make our health system more universal, accountable, and affordable.


FACT SHEET: SB 1021 (Wiener)