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Bipartisan drug coupon bill passes House Insurance committee

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A bill aimed at making prescription drugs more affordable passed unanimously out of the House Insurance and Commerce Committee on Wednesday (March 17).

HB 1569 would establish the Arkansas Fairness In Cost Sharing Act, a measure that has broad bipartisan support. Out of the bill’s 34 co-sponsors, 26 are Republicans and 8 are Democrats.

The language in the bill states the General Assembly wants to “ensure that a state-regulated insurer and the entities that contract with the state-regulated insurer do not restrict patient access to prescription drugs by refusing to count third-party cost-sharing assistance toward a patient’s cost-sharing obligations, a practice that is detrimental to the consumer.”

The sponsor of the bill Rep. Robin Lundstrum, R-Elm Springs, explained to the committee Arkansans are having trouble using cost sharing assistance, also known as coupons, when paying for prescriptions at the pharmacy.

“Imagine you’re at the pharmacy, you pull out your coupon for your very expensive drug…you have met with your doctor and they have advised that you need this specific drug. You pull out the coupon and you find out – oh, wait a second, this coupon doesn’t quite work,” she said. “Normally, you pull out a coupon and the coupon is what is says. It means what is says.”

Lundstrum stated that the measure was being supported by 26 groups including the Susan G. Komen Foundation. Five states have already passed this law and 16 others are working on this, she added.

“The PBMs have decided, ‘we’re going to pocket the money instead of you pocketing the money toward your insurance deductible.’ This bill corrects that,” she said.

Leo Hauser, the local counsel for PHARMA – the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers Association – said they support this bill.

“This bipartisan legislation is going to help patients have better access to their lifesaving medications and protect your constituents from a costly and rather burdensome practice called accumulator adjustment programs,” he explained.

Hauser added, “Health insurers have traditionally allowed manufacturer cost-sharing assistance – coupons – to help patients pay their deductibles and out of pocket costs. Unfortunately, instead of allowing this assistance to help patients support their medicines, health insurers and PBMs have begun using what is known as accumulator adjustment programs, which prevent manufacturer coupons from being counted toward a patient’s deductible and out of pocket expense.”

One person did speak against the bill, Derrick Smith, a Little Rock attorney who represents America’s Health Insurance Plans, a national association.

Smith said, “We oppose it because it prohibits co-payment accumulator programs and because we believe the bill will negatively impact the cost of access to high-quality health care services for Arkansas residents.”

The measure heads to the House floor for a full vote.

Editor’s note: Marine Glisovic is the senior political reporter for KATV News and is a contributor to Talk Business & Politics.

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