Oklahoma Watches and Warnings

Oklahoma legislature working on bill that would help regulate pharmacy benefit managers

OKLAHOMA CITY - Pharmacy benefit managers are companies hired to save insurance companies money. The problem is that often raises prices and limits options for consumers.

The Oklahoma legislature is working on House Bill 2632 that would help regulate PBMs, putting local pharmacies on a level playing field and allowing consumers to use the pharmacy of their choice.

“It would allow you, as an individual, to go where you feel like you get the best service,” Representative John Echols said. “There’s nothing wrong with big pharmacy chains, but there is something wrong with using your power in the market to force people away from the mom and pop’s where you may get better service.”

Echols is the author of HB 2632. He hopes the bill helps the system get back to working the way it’s supposed to.

Echols said he’s not against PBMs; he’s just pro local business and the right of the consumer to choose.

“It wouldn’t put PBMs out of business; that’s not true. What it would do is open up the playing field and allow substantial more transparency into where their money goes,” he said. “What’s happening with it and frankly stopping the hiding of additional profits inside these PMs.”

For Thrifty Pharmacy owner Dani Lynch, the most important part of the bill is the consumer’s ability to choose their pharmacy. She said, even if you don’t use her pharmacy, the relationships a patient develops with their health care provider is important.

“If you have an illness or your child has an illness, don’t you want to know the person that puts something in your body? I would,” Lynch said. “That relationship is very strong between health care professionals and patients.”

Lynch is also a fan of regulation for the PBMs to make sure patients have the option of choosing a cheaper generic prescription instead of a high cost drug.

“In a lot of cases, that is true. That’s not good either. It doesn’t save money when there is a generic version available; that’s ridiculous,” she said.

It is deadline week, so the bill has to be heard by Friday and come off the floor to have a chance of being voted into law.

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