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Legislative Update March 2001

Alyson Welsh, Director of Government Affairs

March 2001
Alyson Welsh, Director of Government Affairs
The 124th Ohio General Assembly Starts Legislative Hearings!

The Ohio Legislature recently began their 124th legislative session in January. There have already been almost 60 bills introduced in the Ohio Senate and over 120 bills introduced in the Ohio House of Representatives. The newly elected Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rep. Larry Householder (R-Glenford), along with many “freshman” legislators, set the basis for a dramatically different arena at the Statehouse. There are new Health Committees in the Ohio Senate and the Ohio House of Representatives. The new chairs are Senator Lynn Wachtmann (R-Napoleon) and Representative Greg Jolivette (R-Hamilton), respectively.

HB 223 Update
Many pharmacists have been receiving visits from their local health boards to collect licensure fees from pharmacies for being categorized as “retail food establishments.” This new license is a product of House Bill 223, from the 123rd Ohio General Assembly. HB 223 was intended to be a revamping of the Food Service Operation Law, but in the final version any establishment that sells “over the counter drugs” fell under the auspices of this licensure requirement. OPA has been working with Representative Tim Schaffer (R-Fairfield County) who has agreed to carry a bill that would exempt pharmacies that do not sell perishable food products from this license. Many OPA members have been calling their state legislators and it has been very helpful. Legislators on both sides of the aisle are calling OPA to find out what’s going on and how they can help alleviate this “food licensing” issue. The bill will be introduced as soon as possible.

HB 53 Pharmacist Freedom of Access Bill
On February 1, 2001, Representative Bryan Williams (R-Akron) introduced House Bill 53, which will allow Ohioans access to any pharmacy willing to meet the terms set by the managed care contract for pharmacy services. The bill will also require any health-insuring corporation (HIC), or contract which provides coverage for prescription drug services by participating pharmacies, to also provide coverage for non-participating pharmacies that are willing to meet the terms and conditions of the pharmacy program of the HICs or of the participating network pharmacies. HB 53 is similar to House Bill 304 of the 123rd Ohio General Assembly that was introduced by the same sponsor. OPA lobbyists have met with the sponsor, and he has agreed to add legislative language that would guarantee all pharmacies the opportunity to participate in the programs of the state retirements systems (i.e., SERS, STRS, PERS). The sponsor also agreed to language that would permit pharmacists to fill 90-day prescriptions, similar to what the participants in the state retirements systems can get through their mail order program. OPA is working closely with Rep. Williams as he drafts a substitute version of HB 53 that will be introduced as soon as possible. HB 53 was referred to the House Health Committee.

House Bill 4
House Bill 4 was introduced by State Representative John Hagan (R-Alliance) on January 30, 2001. This bill will give the Ohio Department of Aging the authority to create a prescription drug discount program for Ohio residents who are age 60 or older, or disabled, and to provide that the names of the participants in the program or the Golden Buckeye Card program are not public record. HB 4 was referred to in Governor Taft’s State of the State address in January, and was introduced as legislation very soon after. The bill has been referred to the House Health Committee where hearings have begun. OPA has been vigorously meeting with the Governor’s Office, the Ohio Department of Aging, the Chair and members of the House Health Committee to express our extreme concern on this bill. OPA also testified before the House Health Committee, explaining our concern on the vagueness of the legislative language and our interest in looking at other programs that would provide the benefit for seniors that the Administration is striving towards.

House Bill 71
Representative Keith Faber (R-Celina) introduced House Bill 71, legislation that would allow a pharmacist to refuse to dispense a medication on ethical or religious grounds. The legislation requires that a pharmacist shall provide the employer with a written statement of the basis for the refusal before receiving a request to fill a prescription. The legislation says that the employer “shall not discharge, discipline, discriminate against, or retaliate against, or deny employment or promotion to the pharmacist solely on the basis of refusal to dispense the drug.” The legislation also releases the pharmacist and employer of liability if the refusal to dispense results in harm. The Ohio Board of Pharmacy has always supported the pharmacist’s right to deny dispensing of medication if, in the pharmacist’s judgement, the drug should not be dispensed. However, if a pharmacist refuses to dispense a particular drug, the pharmacist is legally liable if harm occurs. A court would need to determine if a patient is “harmed” if an unintended birth would occur, for example. OPA members are weighing in on both sides of this issue.

Update On Capitol Hill
As the new Congressional session and Administration get moving, the “Campaign for Coverage of Pharmacists’ Patient Care Services” is underway. There is a coalition working with Congress to have this initiative introduced as legislation. They are working to secure recognition for pharmacists under the Social Security Act as health care providers eligible to bill Medicare for the professional patient care services they provide. This will ensure that Medicare beneficiaries receive the appropriate care to enhance their drug therapy as well as safeguard against medication-related errors.

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