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August Legislative Update

OH State Budget Legislation Includes Prescription Discount Card Program

Legislative Update August 2002
Alyson Welsh, Director of Government Affairs

Ohio Governor Bob Taft Signs State Budget Legislation that Incorporates Prescription Discount Card Program
Ohio’s answer to balancing the state’s budget was to pass a 31-cent increase in the state’s cigarette tax. Along with the new tax, the Governor slipped in a version of his Golden Buckeye Prescription Discount Card legislation. The Ohio Pharmacists Association had been successful in lobbying for changes and delays in the passage of the Golden Buckeye Discount Drug program, House Bill 4. The Governor, however, inserted a modified version of HB 4 into the budget bill which passed. Ohio’s discount card plan provides for no state monies and relies 100 percent on community pharmacy to fund the state’s program.

However, OPA was successful in the addition of several valuable amendments to the bill that will provide some safeguards and possible rebate monies to participating pharmacies. The following language was included in the version of the bill that was signed into law by Governor Taft:
* requires the administrator of the program (PBM) to create a financial incentive program through which they shall distribute a portion of rebate monies from drug manufacturers to participating pharmacies;
* the administrator must allow any willing pharmacy to participate in the program;
* the administrator cannot require a pharmacy to participate in this program as a condition of their participation in another network operated by the administrator;
* annually the Ohio Department of Aging must issue a report on the operation of the program including average cost savings to cardholders, any costs incurred by participating pharmacies and other analyses of the program.

The program will also have to go through a rigorous approval process before implementation. The State Controlling Board and the Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review will both need to approve the bids and the rules written by the Ohio Department of Aging before implementing the Golden Buckeye Discount Card Program. The inclusion of the above mentioned requirements are a very important piece of the legislation and will provide community pharmacy in Ohio with choice of participation and the receipt of a portion of rebate monies. OPA will continue to keep you updated on the status of implementation of the Golden Buckeye Discount Drug Program.

Ohio Senator Robert Spada Introduces Uniform Prescription Drug Card
Senate Bill 271 has been introduced in Ohio by State Senator Robert Spada (R-Parma) and has been assigned to the Ohio Senate Health and Family Services Committee. SB 271 will require insurance companies to provide specific information relating to pharmacy claims on insurance cards, such as Rx Bin Number and a 1-800 number for pharmacy claims. The bill will require insurance companies to update their cards annually, and also allows for the use of a sticker to update current insurance cards. OPA has been working behind the scenes with representatives of the insurance industry to create a bill that both parties would be content with and help ease the process through the legislature.

Politicians on Capitol Hill Pass Medicare Prescription Drug Bill in House
Last month the U.S. House of Representatives passed a Republican drafted, White House endorsed, PBM-run Medicare drug benefit bill. The final vote on the legislation in the House was 221 to 208. Roll call was completed at 2:32 a.m. after six hours of debate.

Among the many features contained in this legislation, the most onerous ones include:
* authorizes an expansion of the Bush Administration’s PBM discount card plan;
* overturns any willing provider State laws;
* promotes mail order;
* allows PBMs to set pharmacy reimbursement rates.

Along with the national pharmacy organizations, OPA activated Ohio pharmacists to contact federal legislators to express opposition to this proposal. Thank you to everyone who called, wrote or e-mailed your representatives! Every contact helps and we will continue to ask for your participation as this proposal makes its way through the debates in the U.S. Senate. It is extremely important that your U.S. Representative and U.S. Senators are aware of community pharmacy’s opposition to this legislation.

Drug Repository Program Legislation on the Move in Ohio
House Bill 221, sponsored by State Representative Kirk Schuring (R-Canton) is receiving increased press coverage and has caught the attention of many state politicians. HB 221 passed the Ohio House of Representatives and is pending in the Ohio Senate Health and Family Services Committee. OPA has worked with the sponsor of the legislation, Rep. Schuring, to include several items for the protection of pharmacies that choose to participate in this drug repository program. These amendments include an immunity provision for pharmacists and a provision making the entire program voluntary.

HB 221 would allow for the re-dispensing of certain medications to participating pharmacies, hospitals, nursing homes and health clinics. These medications would have to be inspected to ensure their safety and then redistributed to Ohioans who fit special eligibility requirements that will be established by the Ohio Department of Health and the State Board of Pharmacy. The bill also states that the State Board of Pharmacy will create a list of drugs that can be donated to the program, although any drugs used must be in their original, unit-of-use package.

When first introduced, HB 221 would have allowed for any drugs to be donated by anyone to the program. This broadness was quickly addressed and the legislation was amended. OPA still has concerns on the safety of any redistributed pharmaceutical and will continue to express our concern as the debate continues on this proposal. If Ohio passes HB 221, it would be one of the first states to create a drug repository program. OPA will continue to keep you updated on HB 221.

The Ohio Legislature is on virtual break and will reconvene in the Fall.
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