Senate Bill 257, the Medication Cost Transparency Act, is headed to the Governor’s desk to be signed into law.
Once enacted, the law will increase drug pricing transparency, establish important consumer protections and help people save money at the pharmacy.
The road for SB 257 was not always a smooth one. In the Senate, there was a lot of work done with many stakeholders to craft a bill that would protect consumers, ensure transparency and deliver lower costs.
In the House, however, the legislation was gutted and then loaded with a number of provisions that would have caused consumer drug prices to rise, provided a windfall for pharmaceutical companies and major hospital systems, and undermined important patient safety measures.
Specifically, the House’s version of the bill would have:
- Mandated patients, through their insurer’s PBM, pay no less for their medicine than what it costs the pharmacies to obtain it. This will allow pharmaceutical companies to drastically increase the prices of their drugs for consumers.
- Removed the ability to negotiate lower 340b drug costs for patients with major hospital systems. Hospitals already make tens of millions of dollars in profits off the sale of federally discounted 340b drugs. As written, the House’s amended bill would exacerbate the problem and cause patients to pay even more for the medicine they need.
- Removed strict accreditation standards for pharmacies that ensure safety and quality for consumers.
While this amended version of the bill passed the House, it was quickly rejected by the Senate.
That’s when sides from both Chambers went to work.
In negotiations on the bill Senator Jim Perry, and Representatives Destin Hall and John Bell, hammered out a deal that is a major win for consumers.
The final product, which is now presented to the governor:
- Allows pharmacists to share cost information about prescription drugs with patients and sell patients a lower costs drug if one is available. This can help patients save money on their medicine.
- Requires pharmacists to disclose any shipping and handling fees that will be charged to patients for any mailed or delivered prescriptions. Consumers have a right to know the full price up front, including any fees they may have to pay.
- Requires that Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBMs) are licensed by the State of North Carolina. Licensing will help ensure that PBMs are operating in the best interest of the consumer and working to keep drug costs down. 23 other states require PBMs to be licensed.
Senate Bill 257 is a great example of something we don’t see often enough: good government.
Stakeholders and experts were brought together. Opinions and viewpoints were shared. All sides compromised. And our law makers – specifically Perry, Hall and Bell – crafted a quality piece of legislation.
This is the way government is supposed to work. When government works this way, it’s the people who win.
And with Senate Bill 257, health care consumers in our state have won.