Pharmacy choice bill dies

May 19, 2016

Independent pharmacists in Colorado are disappointed after a Senate committee killed the “Pharmacy Choice Act” before it could come up for a vote.

Independent pharmacists in Colorado are disappointed after a Senate committee killed the “Pharmacy Choice Act” before it could come up for a vote.

Rep. Jon Becker sponsored the billPharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) fought the legislation, arguing it would increase overall healthcare costs.

Colorado House Bill 16-1361 specified that citizens eligible for prescription drug benefits be allowed to fill the scripts at whatever pharmacy they choose. The legislation passed in the House. However, the Senate Finance Committee squashed the companion Senate bill.

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“We introduced the bill because RxPlus members reported that they are experiencing more and more patients being forced into mail order for maintenance medications, or being enrolled in plans that have narrow networks,” said Brad Young, government affairs director for RxPlus Pharmacies, a group purchasing organization for independent pharmacies.

“More patients are not allowed by their insurance companies to pick up their medications at the local pharmacy that they may prefer. For a host of reasons, we believe that patients should be able to choose their pharmacy,” Young said.

Despite the bill’s failure in the Senate, Young believes it can pass next year.  “We will work on educating legislators and candidates this summer and fall, and have an excellent chance of passing a bill next year.”

However, Express Scripts, the Pharmaceutical Care Management Association (PCMA), the Colorado Association of Health Plans and other organizations will likely oppose similar proposals.

 

“We are pleased that the any-willing-provider bill in Colorado did not pass, as it ultimately would have driven up the cost of medications for Colorado’s employers and patients,” said David Whitrap, senior director of corporate communications for Express Scripts.

“The organizations that pay for healthcare, employers, unions, government agencies, need to be able to create pharmacy networks that deliver the best mix of cost, quality, and proximity to meet the specific needs of their unique patient population. And, when establishing these networks, plan sponsors should be allowed to use differentiated copays to incentivize patients to choose higher quality and more affordable pharmacies,” Whitrap said.

However, Rep. Jon Becker (R-Fort Morgan), who sponsored the house bill, believes Express Scripts is simply fighting to keep their monopoly.

“This wasn’t against mail order. It is just allowing you, if you wanted, to keep dealing with the local pharmacy that you have been dealing with for years,” Becker said.