Utah lawmakers take on medical marijuana, mental health crisis centers and vaping

Utah’s 2020 Legislative session is moving quickly to meet its 45-day deadline to adjournment. The health care related bill attracting the most attention is SB121 which refines aspects of Utah’s medical marijuana law. A key provision clarifies that private employers do not have to accommodate medical marijuana users in the work place. The measure passed the Senate Health and Human Services Committee this week and is making its way through both the House and Senate. Lawmakers hope to have the bill passed in time for the March 1 opening of medical marijuana dispensaries.


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There are other health care bills we are watching in Utah. Including:

HB 272: Rep. Paul Ray, the primary sponsor, says the measure is aimed at keeping prescription costs down for consumers. The bill specifically targets pharmacy benefit managers who negotiate with drug manufacturers on behalf of insurers. As Ray explained to the Desert News, of a $400 insulin prescription, the manufacturer ends up with just $88, and the pharmacy benefit manager requires the manufacturer to give it a 65 percent rebate price. The patient does not benefit from the rebate, which is split between the insurance company and the pharmacy benefit manager, Ray said. HB 272 would require pharmacy benefit managers to pass the rebates to consumers at the point of sale, while insurers still get the agreed upon sums. Ray said the measure, which currently is awaiting a hearing before the House Health and Human Services Committee, would help drive down consumer prices.

SB 74: The bill would expand the number of residents who could receive family planning services, including birth control, under Medicaid. The bill would require the state Division of Health Care Financing to apply for a Medicaid waiver or a state plan amendment for a federal match rate of 90 percent of state expenditures for family planning services. Anyone with an income level equal at or below 250 percent of the federal poverty level could be eligible to receive services under the bill. Abortions would not be covered under the bill. The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Derek Kitchen, says the measure would provide contraceptives and family planning services to 10,000 Utah women, heading off unintended pregnancies and abortions. The measure passed the Senate Health and Human Services Committee by a 4-1 vote, with some members expressing concerns over its $500,000 cost.

HB32: The bill calls for the placement several new mental health crisis centers along Utah’s Wasatch Front, where the majority of the state’s population lives. The 24-hour centers would serve people experiencing a mental health crisis and replace the practice of sending people to hospital emergency rooms or to the police. The bill would also establish mobile outreach teams to reach people in crisis in rural Utah. The bill is costly, $9.7 million for ongoing operations and $11.5 million to start the crisis centers. But it gained unanimous approval from the House Health and Human Services Committee. The bill is reportedly attracting interest among the private sector for possible funding.

HB58: The bill takes direct aim at e-cigarette use among Utah teens. The measure, sponsored by Rep. Susan Pulsipher, would require all schools to draft policies banning electronic cigarettes and start classes as early as the fourth grade on how to avoid the devices. Pulsipher’s bill comes after the Utah Board of Education created an emergency rule in the fall to allow schools to start confiscating the vaping devices. Her bill would make confiscation a state wide law. The measure passed unanimously last week through the House Education Committee.