Stitt vetoes bill that would have added regulations to pharmacy benefit managers

OKLAHOMA CITY- A bill that would have added regulations to pharmacy benefit managers has been vetoed by the governor.

Pharmacist Dani Lynch has been building relationships with her customers at Thrifty Pharmacy for more than two decades.

“If someone has an illness or your child has an illness, don’t you want to know who is putting that pill in your body?” she said. “I would.”

Lynch was closely following two bills as they moved through the Oklahoma legislature.

House Bill 2632 and Senate Bill 841 were working to add regulations to Pharmacy Benefit Managers or PBMs. PBMs act as the middle man between patients and pharmacies. They’re hired by insurance companies to determine the price of the drug.

“This is supposed to save money and, most of the time, it does not,” Lynch said.

“Frankly, some of your increases in health care costs is the rise of these PBMs,” Rep. Jon Echols told News 4. 

Echols said they usually force customers to go to bigger competitors such as CVS, Walgreens or mail order.

But, the bills would look to regulate the third-party companies.

“It wouldn’t put PBMs out of business,” Echols said. “That’s not true, but what it would do is open up the playing field and add substantially more transparency on where the money goes and what’s happening with it. Most of all, it is stopping the hiding of profits inside these PBMs.”

Both bills would let Oklahomans choose where to get their prescriptions filled, something that is often chosen by your insurance provider.

“You have freedom of choice wherever you want,” Lynch said.

On May 1, Gov. Stitt vetoed Senate Bill 841, saying that similar bills had been struck down in other states.

"Senate Bill 841 attempts to regulate certain health plans sponsored by Oklahoma employers in such a manner that is preempted by, and disallowed by, federal law. Legislation in other states that is similar to Senate Bill 841 has been struck down for impermissibly attempting to regulate health plans governed by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 ("ERISA"). Allowing Senate Bill 841 to become law in Oklahoma would leave many Oklahoma employers who have ERISA-governed plans with no choice but to incur substantial legal expense in order to have a federal court rule that Senate Bill 841 is preempted by federal law and disallowed with respect to certain ERISA-governed plans," Stitt wrote.

Stitt called on the legislature to develop a compromise that encourages low prescription costs for all Oklahoma employees and guarantees an even playing field for hometown pharmacies.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Oklahoma released a statement following the governor's veto:

“Governor Stitt put the people of Oklahoma first with his veto of SB 841, and his leadership protected Oklahomans from tens of millions of dollars in increased health care costs. We will continue to work closely with the governor and the Legislature to promote policies that support the health and well-being of every Oklahoman, including our more than 835,000 members across the state.”

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