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August Legislative Update

Legislative Day, Medicare Prescription Drug Bill Update, Ohio Pharmacy PAC Pharmacy PAC

Legislative Update August 2003
Kelly Vyzral, Director of Government Affairs


OPA/OSHP Pharmacy Legislative Day - October 8, Columbus

Registration is now available online for the OPA/OSHP Pharmacy Legislative Day scheduled for October 8, 2003 at the Riffe Center in downtown Columbus. $$LinkToForm8 or you can register on the form on page 5 in the August Ohio Pharmacist journal.

Join other Ohio pharmacists as we work together to alert state legislators of our interest in pending state legislation pertaining to our profession. A combined voice is the strongest way to relay our message and we need your help. Please help make pharmacy an even more influential profession with the state legislature and start by attending this program!

Invited speakers include Governor Bob Taft; Rep. Larry Householder, Speaker of the Ohio House of Representatives; Sen. Doug White, Ohio Senate President; Lynn Wachtmann, Chairman of the Senate Health Committee; Sen. Scott Nein, Chairman of the Senate Insurance Committee; Sen. Robert Spada, sponsor of SB 43 the Uniform Prescription Drug Card; Greg Jolivette, Chairman of the House Health Committee; and Rep. Geoff Smith, Chairman of the House Insurance Committee.

At PHARMACY LEGISLATIVE DAY you will:
* learn about pending legislative and regulatory issues relating to pharmacy;
* learn how to effectively educate your legislators;
* earn 4.5 credit hours of continuing education credit, one hour of which qualifies for Ohio jurisprudence credit; and
* have the opportunity to casually mingle with state senators and representatives at the Legislative Reception!

Contact Your Legislators

The legislature may be on hiatus, but this is the perfect time to contact your legislators. During summer recess, your state senator and representative are most likely working in your community. Keep your eye on the newspaper and attend events where your legislator will be present. Write your legislators a letter, or contact them by phone. There are still several pieces of important legislation in committee that will impact pharmacists and the practice of pharmacy in Ohio, including SB 43 the Uniform Prescription Drug Bill, and SB 14 the Rx Program (see July 2003 Ohio Pharmacist, pages 12-13 or $$LinkToNews179,4). You can help make an impact on these pieces of legislation by talking or writing to your state senator and state representative with information on how these bills will impact YOUR pharmacy, YOUR patients, and YOUR community. Let them know you care. If you are unsure who your legislators are, look up the name and contact information for your state senator and representative at http://www.legislature.state.oh.us/search.cfm#reps_zip. The legislator web sites listed there only contain their Columbus information, so you might have better luck finding their local information in your phone book.

Pharmacy PAC: If You Don’t Protect Pharmacy, Who Will?

During the legislature’s summer hiatus, several important issues are looming in our future, including PBM regulation, nurse dispensing, and a prescription drug program. These and many other issues make this one of the most important legislative sessions in Ohio pharmacy’s history.

OPA is currently looking into drafting legislation that would regulate the PBM (pharmacy benefit manager) industry in Ohio, which is currently a completely unregulated industry. We will be fighting a nurse dispensing bill this session, and keeping our eye on two bills that would provide seniors and the underinsured with prescription drugs. In the coming weeks, OPA will be faced with opposition from other influential and highly financed organizations, including insurance groups and pharmaceutical companies. In order to maintain a strong and effective voice at the Statehouse, we need your help! We need each OPA member to make a personal contribution to Pharmacy PAC. Your contribution to Pharmacy PAC will help OPA gain the necessary visibility needed to influence key decision-makers and act as a vocal, well-informed advocate for pharmacists.

Please make your checks payable to:
OPA Pharmacy PAC
6037 Frantz Rd. Ste. 106
Dublin, Ohio 43017
or to use your credit card to make a secure online donation to the Ohio Pharmacy PAC, $$Link,AWS_SSL:DisplayInputForm&FormID=37, CLICK HERE!$$ or call OPA at 614.798.0037. (Per federal law, only personal, non-corporate checks please.)

Medicare Prescription Drug Bill Update

On Friday, June 27, the U.S. House and Senate passed differing versions of legislation to provide a prescription drug benefit under the Medicare program. Currently, the measures have been referred to a congressional conference committee, and a final bill is expected to be sent to President Bush by the end of the year.
Both bills were similar in outline. Seniors would receive prescription drug coverage, paying monthly premiums, a deductible and co-payments. Both plans included a gap in coverage, as well as protection for seniors with unusually high annual expenses.

Both bills also include measures to speed access to generic medicine, and to allow importation of brand-name pharmaceuticals from Canada. Beneficiaries would have access to prescription drug coverage, with plans to be offered by private insurance companies and partially subsidized by the government. Lower-income older people would receive greater help from the federal government with the cost of their drugs.
The drug coverage would begin in 2006. Until then, discount cards would be available that would reportedly reduce costs of prescription medicine by 15 percent or more.

Additionally, private companies would be invited to provide an alternative to traditional Medicare for overall health care. The legislation envisions establishment of a series of regional preferred provider organizations, or PPOs, along the lines of insurance plans that now cover millions of working people. Medicare beneficiaries could retain their existing coverage or switch. The government subsidy for their drug coverage would be the same, regardless of which plan they chose.

Under the Senate bill, the beneficiary would have to pay a $275 deductible, half of drug costs from $276 to $4,500, all costs from $4,501 to $5,813 and 10 percent of costs beyond that. Under the House bill, the beneficiary would pay a $250 deductible, 20 percent of drug costs from $251 to $2,000 and all costs from $2,001 to $4,900. Medicare would cover all drug costs beyond that Senate bill vs. House bill. Negotiators from the two houses will have to tackle a long list of issues including:

* The House bill creates two new types of tax-free personal savings accounts for medical expenses. The Senate bill has no such provision.
* The Senate bill requires the government to deliver drug benefits if private plans show no interest in a particular region. The House bill has no such backup mechanism.
* The House bill tilts more toward the private sector. It increases Medicare payments to health maintenance organizations and sets up direct competition between private plans and traditional Medicare, starting in 2010. The Senate bill has no similar provisions.

The Senate bill offers more generous assistance to some people with low incomes. But the House bill would require high-income people to spend more of their own money before they could qualify for certain types of drug coverage.

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