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February Legislative Update

On January 3, 2011, 31 new members joined the Ohio House of Representatives for the 129th General Assembly.  As a result of the November election, Republicans picked up 17 seats and are the new Majority party in the Ohio House.  They have elected Rep. Bill Batchelder from Medina as Speaker of the House.  Likewise, January 3, 2011 was the swearing-in day for 10 new members of the Ohio Senate.  Republicans picked up two seats in the November election and hold on to a 23-10 majority.

Please check the Ohio House of Representatives website at http://www.house.state.oh.us/ and the Ohio Senate website at http://www.ohiosenate.gov/.

Take a few minutes to look up your State Representative and State Senator.  If you have a personal relationship with them through business or community activities, please email me at kvyzral@ohiopharmacists.org.  This is a great way for us to stay connected with the legislators. If you don’t yet have that personal connection, attend a Town Hall or Office Hours event, or better yet call their district office and invite them into your pharmacy.  Let them know you are a great resource for health care information. 

House committee assignments have been released, and pharmacy will be well represented.  Rep. Dave Burke, the only pharmacist in the General Assembly, was appointed to the following committees:  Finance, Health, Insurance, Rules and Reference; Rep. Burke will Chair the Health and Human Services Sub-committee.  Most legislation dealing with pharmacy will end up in one of these committees, and the chairmanship of the Human Services Sub-committee will be very important during the budget deliberations.

With the start of a new General Assembly comes all new legislation.  Any legislation that was introduced in the past two years that was not signed into law has disappeared and we start over with new legislation.  OPA met with Governor Kasich’s policy team and gave them a list of legislative priorities that we will use to introduce legislation.  These priorities include:

1. provide a reasonable Medicaid reimbursement based on cost of dispensing;
2. provide fairness in audit legislation;
3. improved business environment for independent pharmacy;
4. prohibit mandatory mail order;
5. incentives for reaching generic thresholds;
6. initiate MTM payment;
7. initiate transparent oversight and review of Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBMs);
8. examine the relationship of Pharmacy Benefits and Insurance Coverage;
9. provide for provider status to pharmacists as individuals just as any other health care provider.

Pharmacy Victory!

I will close this column with the first pharmacy victory of 2011.  The School Employees Health Care Board (SEHCB) was trying to implement a mandatory mail order rule for all school employees and their dependents. This would amount to a loss of up to 2.5 million maintenance scripts currently serviced by community pharmacies. OPA testified against this rule at a public hearing, and organized several pharmacists, a school superintendent and a school district fiscal officer to testify against it.  We were able to show legislators that not only is mail order not a cost savings, but often costs more. We also discussed patient safety issues that often arise with a mandatory mail order provision,  and encouraged the legislators to ask for actual cost data from SEHCB to prove the assertion that the school districts would save money. The information provided to them was not satisfactory and the rule was pulled from the December Joint Commission on Agency Rule Review calendar. SEHCB declined to refile the rule in January. 

While I do not believe we have seen the last of SEHCB’s attempts to enact a mandatory mail order rule, OPA will continue to fight for the patient’s right to CHOOSE where they have their prescriptions filled. OPA will always advocate the benefits of face-to-face contact with a pharmacist and the importance of the pharmacist in the health care system.

If you have any questions or comments about the issues mentioned in this article, please contact Kelly Vyzral, Director of Government Affairs, at 614.586.1497 or kvyzral@ohiopharmacists.org.


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