Legislation to regulate pharmacy benefit managers is on its way to the Senate floor.
The Senate Appropriations Committee gave its unanimous support on Wednesday to a bill (SB 390) that would clarify that the Office of Insurance Regulation can audit PBMs, like it does other entities, to examine potential cost-cutting areas. Lawmakers have attempted to add that oversight in the past, but OIR said the statute wasn’t clear enough.
PBMs are middlemen between health care plans and pharmacies that are often blamed for rising prescription drug prices. They help determine which drugs insurance plans will cover and negotiate on behalf of insurers to secure discounts from drug manufacturers. When a claim is filed, PBMs collect money from those plans, then pass money to pharmacies through different methods.
The panel approved Sen. Tom Wright‘s bill without comment during a last-minute meeting called to prepare that and a handful of other bills for debate on the Senate floor as the end of the Legislative Session nears.
Despite the similarly unanimous votes during the bill’s prior committee stops, the measure didn’t reach Appropriations without controversy.
In the bill’s first hearing last month, Wright watered down the bill. The reworked proposal stripped provisions that would have stabilized prescription prices to their values at the time an insurance claim is made, ending “clawbacks,” in which PBMs charge more for drugs than they initially quoted a pharmacy.
Wright nearly postponed the bill in that meeting when fellow Republican Sen. Jeff Brandes requested more time to review that amendment.
Then in the following meeting, Democratic Sen. Perry Thurston attempted to add the clawback language back into the bill. After some confusion over whether Wright supported the amendment, Thurston withdrew it.
Former Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp, speaking on behalf of Small Business Pharmacies Aligned for Reform, supported the clawback measure but continued to support the bill without that provision.
The House is expected to consider its version (HB 1155), carried by Tampa Republican Sen. Jackie Toledo, on Friday.