Illinois Legislature OKs Funding to Help Rural, Independent Pharmacies

June 26, 2019

$10 million to fund Critical Access Pharmacy Program.

The Illinois lawmakers approved legislation to aid rural, independent pharmacies amid fears of continued closures.

The legislation, H.B. 465, calls for $10 million in funding for a Critical Access Pharmacy Program, which is awaiting approval from Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker.

Illinois Sen. Andy Manar, D-Bunker Hill, stated that rural Illinois communities are experiencing skyrocketing drug prices, driven in part by special deals negotiated by the pharmacy benefit manager (PBM) industry with corporate chains. The result has created even competitive disadvantages for independent pharmacies to remain economically viable for communities.

“As a result, the small businesses are closing their doors and residents are forced to travel long distances to get the medications they need,” Manar says in a prepared statement.

The goal of the program is to offer an economic boost to rural pharmacies, while the state looks for other options to tamp down rising costs of prescription drugs. Manar was also behind state legislation that is said to create a framework to regulate PBMs.

The Critical Access Pharmacy Program was included as a part of last year’s state budget, but passage stalled.

“This funding is going to be a major boost for rural pharmacies and will help keep them open while we find ways to combat the rising cost of prescription drugs,” said Manar, who helped ensure the inclusion of the funding in the budget. “I’m glad to see that we’re finally leaving the gridlock of the past behind and bringing this needed program to communities that are at risk of losing their local pharmacies.”

The Pharmaceutical Care Management Association (PCMA) argues, “PBMs advocate on behalf of Illinois’ consumers and health plan sponsors by negotiating with drug manufacturers and drugstores to keep prescription drugs accessible and affordable for patients. Conversely, the independent drugstore lobby’s agenda seeks to weaken PBM tools, add unnecessary regulation, and increase prescription drug costs in Illinois.

“To further reduce prescription drug costs, PCMA supports a number of legislative and regulatory policies to increase competition, reduce and build on market-based tools in public programs and private health insurance,” PCMA states.