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Legislative Update - April 2002

Medicaid Reimbursement Cut, Bioterrorism Legislation, Drug Repository Substitute Bill

Legislative Update - April 2002
Alyson Welsh, Director of Government Affairs

Medicaid Reimbursement Cut Approved by Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review!
On March 11, 2002, the Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review (JCARR) validated a rule that will reduce pharmacy Medicaid reimbursement from WAC +11% down to WAC +9%. This reduction will be effective on May 1, 2002. OPA strongly objects to this cut, and will fight for a fee increase in the next budget.
The Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services (ODJFS) created this pharmacy reimbursement rule in response to a $150 million shortfall in the state’s Medicaid program. In the state budget bill, House Bill 94, ODJFS was requested to cut $150 million from the state’s Medicaid budget. When the rule was first filed, OPA and other pharmacy representatives testified against the reimbursement reduction and suggested other ways for the state to save money in their Medicaid budget. Additionally we argued that this reduction would cause serious financial hardship to pharmacies and may reduce access for Medicaid recipients. ODJFS estimates that this reimbursement reduction will amount to approximately $14.5 to $16 million saved for the state Medicaid program.

The next step was a hearing before JCARR to either validate or invalidate this proposed rule. Again, OPA and other representatives testified in opposition to the rule. Members of JCARR were very responsive to the possible ramifications of this reimbursement cut to pharmacies, but felt they had no avenue to invalidate the authority of ODJFS to pursue this reduction. Additionally, there was public discussion on ODJFS working with OPA and other pharmacy groups in the upcoming months to explore additional avenues for cost savings, such as paying pharmacists for disease management and exploring the issue of increased generic usage. However, the reimbursement reduction will still be effective on May 1, 2002.

First Annual “Pharmacist Health Screening Day at the Statehouse” Set for May 14, 2002!
Mark your calendars for Tuesday, May 14, 2002, 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. to attend Pharmacist Health Screening Day at the Statehouse in Columbus. Our goal is to educate state legislators on pharmacist services by providing various screenings (e.g., blood pressure, osteoporosis, diabetes, etc.), smoking cessation information, and brown bag consultations. Legislators and their staffs will have the opportunity to participate. This event is not a focus on any specific legislation, but rather the opportunity to promote the pharmacy profession! (Note: This is not a continuing education program for pharmacists.)

Currently, state legislators are dealing with numerous pharmacy related pieces of legislation that will dramatically affect your profession. OPA wants to increase their awareness on the important role of the pharmacist in their communities. To make the event a success, we need your help. Please contact Alyson Welsh at awelsh@ohiopharmacists.org if you are interested in participating in this event. Or call the OPA office at 614.798.0037.

Governor Taft to Introduce Bioterrorism Legislation
OPA met with representatives from the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) to learn about the “State Emergency Health Powers Act” proposal. ODH, in conjunction with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is creating legislation to prepare Ohio for any public health emergencies. Under this proposal, Ohio’s pharmacists would be required to report any increased prescription rates, unusual types of prescriptions, increases in certain OTC medication purchases, or unexpected patterns in pharmacy visits. This proposal is still in “draft” form, but it is expected to be introduced in legislative form soon. OPA will continue to monitor this proposal.

Drug Repository Substitute Bill Accepted in House Committee
A substitute version of House Bill 221, sponsored by State Representative Kirk Schuring (R-Canton), was accepted by the House Health & Family Services Committee on March 13, 2002. Sub. HB 221 will require the Ohio State Board of Pharmacy to create a drug repository program. Under this Sub. HB 221, only drugs in their original “unit of use” packaging could be donated to the program. The first versions of the bill were much broader, allowing any “unopened” prescription drug to be donated to the program. Additionally, the substitute bill further enhances the liability clause for participating pharmacies. Another provision was added to ensure that pharmacists would not be required to check participants’ eligibility requirements to receive drugs under this program. Participants are going to be required to meet some type of income eligibility requirements that will be determined by the State. Sub. HB 221 was voted out of the Ohio House Health & Family Services Committee on March 20, 2002. The bill will now be heard before the Ohio House of Representatives.

OPA will continue to monitor the activities associated with HB 221.

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