BOSTON (SHNS) – The Legislature on Monday sent Gov. Charlie Baker a bill restricting the practice of insurance companies requiring patients to first try cheaper, oftentimes older, prescription drugs before they will pay for newer and more expensive drugs.

The final votes on the so-called step therapy bill (H 4929) came four days after the House adopted a Rep. John Lawn amendment (H 5258) addressing the number of days allotted for appeals under the bill. The final bill calls for insurers to process step therapy appeals in three business days or 24 hours in cases involving emergencies — a compromise between the House and Senate, which had different timelines in bills that each received unanimous votes this summer.

Under the House bill approved in June, insurers would get up to three business days to weigh requests and must respond by the “next business day” in emergencies. The Senate bill approved in late July had set those thresholds at 72 hours and 24 hours. Lawn and Sen. Cindy Friedman, co-chairs of the Health Care Financing Committee, both told the News Service last week they were happy with the compromise.

“This bill will help patients in Massachusetts receive timely access to the drugs they need so they can live longer and happier lives,” Lawn said. Friedman on Monday called step therapy “a long-practiced activity in health care where patients have to take certain medication before they can get to a medication their doctor has agreed that they need. They have to fail first.” She added, “We’re putting the doctor back into the equation and giving much more control to the patient and the doctor to define what kind of medication they need. “We’ve been waiting for a long time to move step therapy forward and this is certainly going to be a momentous occasion where we’re going to make it much easier for people who need certain medication to get that without the interference of insurance companies.”