MAHP executive director gives an update on the 15-bill health care package
Two bills from the House’s 15-bill health care package have passed out of the Senate Health Policy and Human Services Committee. The two bills are HB 4356, which allows patients to renew contact lens prescriptions online and HB 4359, which expands the scope of practice for certified registered nurse anesthetists in the state.
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The bills now head to a Committee of the Whole, where the entire Senate body will come together to work on the bills. The entire bill package passed out of the House in late March. HB 4356 and HB 4359 are the first of the 15-bill package to move beyond the Senate Health Policy and Human Services Committee.
The package aims to create more transparency in the pharmaceutical industry and lower the costs of medications for consumers. Dominick Pallone, executive director of Michigan Association of Health Plans (MAHP), says these bills begin the process of lowering costs for consumers and are a move in the right direction.
“The overall theme from our stance here is we think [the bill package] has the right intentions. The sponsors and supporters of this package have been trying to focus on creating greater transparency around pharmaceutical costs and hopefully trying to push public policy to cause reductions in some of the pharmaceutical pricing or increased access.”
But, according to Pallone, some of the bills are misguided in their efforts to reduce costs by not addressing the root cause of the issue and shifting costs to insurers. Examples of these bills include HB 4346, which caps monthly insulin prices at $50 for members of state health care plans, and HB 4354, which ensures that oral chemo medications will not have higher copays or deductibles than other cancer treatments.
MAHP is opposed to these bills because shifting costs to insurers will lead to higher premiums instead of cost sharing.
Pallone said HB 4348, which requires Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBMs) that operate in Michigan to become licensed in the state and would subject them to regulations, has the most attention in the legislature. The bill also discloses national rebate information, changes payment arrangements, and prohibits relitigation of mail-order pharmacy legislation.
“There are a lot of other issues wrapped up in what should be just a transparency bill.”
Pallone hopes these bills can function as a first step in addressing the root causes of issues surrounding PBMs and customer affordability.
“My hope is that we work through this package, we get some good pieces of legislation enacted and then we take a look back with policymakers in the years ahead and say, ‘What’s left to do?’ Because I think what is missing from the package are some real approaches to root cause issues.”
Pallone says HB 4348 will most likely end in a compromise and will not be passed until the end of the summer.