Gayle Harrell: Florida patients at the center, all others can fall behind

discount prescriptions
Today I am the most hopeful I’ve been for the future of Florida’s health care system.

Having worked as a practice administrator in health care for over 30 years and spent more than two decades in public service in the Floridia Legislature, I have always advocated for what’s in the best interest of the patient and my constituents.

Unfortunately, I’ve seen patients and constituents face very difficult decisions dealing with their health care costs as the price of prescription medications continued to rise. One of the most significant driving forces in the increasing price of medications is the system that enables middlemen known as Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBMs) to control the price of many medications.

PBMs are hired to negotiate rebates and fees with drug manufacturers, create drug formularies and surrounding policies, and reimburse pharmacies for patients’ prescriptions. They have an enormous influence on which drugs are prescribed to patients, which pharmacies patients can use, and how much patients ultimately pay at the pharmacy counter. They are one of the major reasons for sky-high prescription price increases and limited access to prescription drugs statewide.

PBMs have done this for years, operating in the shadows of our health care system. Thankfully this year, the Sunshine State is finally bringing their actions into the light.

Hope for patient relief comes in the form of two bills — SB 1550 and HB 1509 — that will give patients freedom from health care manipulation by the PBMs. The bills will address a need for transparency regarding the prices we pay at the pharmacy counter and will broaden the pool of care options statewide.

Through my years serving previously as chair of the Senate Health Policy Committee and now as chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee on Health and Human Services, I’ve heard countless testimonies of patients harmed by the actions of PBMs. Each story is more heartbreaking than the next.

According to the National Bureau for Economic Research, pharmaceutical rebates for branded drugs averaged 48%. Needy patients are supposed to have these medicine costs cut almost in half, but unfortunately, these savings frequently never reach the patient.

This year’s legislation, bolstered by the support of Gov. Ron DeSantis, will begin to change the system. The stories of real patients, physicians and pharmacists and their experiences with PBMs are being shared with lawmakers week after week, and we are finally making progress. In fact, both SB 1550 and HB 1509 passed unanimously through each of their first committee stops — a huge step in this fight to elicit real change for patients.

I am grateful to the Governor for showing bold leadership to prioritize patients, and to Sen. Jason Brodeur and Rep. Linda Chaney for sponsoring bipartisan legislation that will transform the lives of Florida families for years to come.

I’ve been in this fight for a long time, and today I am the most hopeful I’ve been for the future of Florida’s health care system. The time is here for real and meaningful reform, and I am proud to support legislation that finally puts Florida patients at the center of what we do.


Sen. Gayle Harrell represents Florida Senate District 31. She previously served as the Senate Health Policy Committee Chair and currently serves as Chair of the Appropriations Committee on Health and Human Services.

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