Bill would ensure access to prescription medications during emergencies

Photo courtesy of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration
Assistant Assembly Speaker Felix W. Ortiz, D-Brooklyn, proposes a bill that would ensure residents have access to medications during a state of emergency.

As New Yorkers rush to stock their fridges and pantries in the face of the COVID-19 epidemic, Assistant Assembly Speaker Felix W. Ortiz, D-Brooklyn, introduced new legislation to ensure that residents have access to their prescribed medications while under a state of emergency.

Ortiz introduced the new bill on March 5, just two days after Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a bill that would allocate $40 million to the New York Department of Health to better respond to the coronavirus.

On March 7, Cuomo declared a state of emergency amid the rapid spread of the novel coronavirus in New York. Approximately 4,000 people in the state have been asked to self-quarantine in order to contain the virus.

Ortiz’s new bill would ensure that those quarantined or people required to stay home from work or school would have an additional 30-day supply of their needed prescription medications. The bill is also calling for insurance companies to cover the costs of the extra supply.

“My bill makes sure that insurance companies cannot create barriers to getting refills during this crisis,” Ortiz said. “We must be fully prepared and we will be.”


According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, older people are at a higher risk for contracting COVID-19. Georgetown University’s Health Policy Institute found that prescription medication use increases with age. Eighty-seven percent of people between the ages of 65 and 79 use prescription drugs.

People with chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, arthritis and cancer are also at a higher risk for serious illness from COVID-19. This population heavily depends on prescription drugs, filling double the amount of prescriptions annually than average adults.

This bill would guarantee that these vulnerable populations and all residents will not run out of their medications or have to refill their prescriptions while New York is under a state of emergency.