NOTICE | Rising Prescription Drug Costs That Almost Happened | Op-Ed

The costs of medical care are already too high, but in the last legislative session, lawmakers considered a bill that would have added additional costs to medical care, even as working families in Louisiana recover from the pandemic of COVID-19. Fortunately, lawmakers stood up for patients and the legislation did not reach the governor’s office. But that doesn’t mean the fight is over. All Louisians should be on high alert as supporters of the bill are expected to try again in 2022.

What is at stake here is the ability of employers and other health care providers to negotiate the prices of prescription drugs through what is called a “Pharmacy Benefits Manager” (PBM). The ability of a third party to negotiate the price of prescription drugs has resulted in continued cost savings for patients.

The legislation would have inserted government bureaucracy into the contracts of private employers, removing the tools that job creators use to provide high-quality, low-cost health coverage to their workforce. Louisiana already has some of the most onerous and punitive licensing boards in the country, and the move would have added an additional requirement to an already paperwork-laden healthcare sector by forcing PBMs to submit to the Board of State pharmacy. PBMs are already regulated by the Louisiana Department of Insurance as they are benefit managers, not pharmacists.

Louisiana has a long history of setting up man-made roadblocks for new, innovative businesses. Over-regulation and creating red tape for new businesses not only hurts the state, it hurts consumers as well. The healthcare industry has seen soaring costs that have forced patients to pay high prices, but PBMs have offered a way to lower the prices of prescription drugs and medical care. Innovative companies that help consumers like PBMs should be welcomed with open arms, not faced with government roadblocks

What’s more, legislation like this forces taxpayers, patients and businesses to pay $ 2.5 billion in higher healthcare costs over the next 10 years, according to an analysis by Visante. This would have increased premiums, deductibles, and co-payments, making it more difficult for patients to purchase the prescription drugs they need and more expensive for companies to provide affordable coverage for their employees.

To top it off, the proposed policy would have eliminated important patient protections that are used to prevent costly pharmacy fraud, which costs taxpayers millions of dollars each year and increases health care costs. For example, in the few months that this bill was considered by the legislature, three independent pharmacy workers in Louisiana pleaded guilty to stealing $ 15 million in taxpayer money from Tricare, a program who provides health care to our brave men and women in the military. . When this type of fraud occurs, all consumers pay the price in the form of higher health care and prescription drug premiums. Making it harder to detect these crimes is simply bad policy.

There is no doubt that health care policy is essential to the future of Louisiana. As costs continue to rise and the economy struggles, now is the time to innovate in public policies that can deliver a better product, faster, and at a lower cost. That is why we should applaud the steps that have been taken to expand telehealth, reverse regulations suspended during the pandemic, and increase access to quality health care for all.

Lawmakers, regulators, taxpayers, employers and workers should unite to continue to firmly reject these failed bureaucratic policies of the past and embrace innovation and consumer-centric policies that stimulate competition, lower prices and better access to health care.

– The Place du Center

Daniel Erspamer is CEO of the Pelican Institute.

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