OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Legislators are set to enter their final week of session at the Oklahoma State Capitol.
With the budget passing through the Oklahoma State Senate late last week and being signed by the governor, all the major tasks look to be taken care of but there are some loose ends to tie up.
One of them, will there be a veto override on Senate Bill 821?
“Senate Bill 821 allows an individual in Oklahoma to choose their pharmacy. That’s as basic as the bill is,” said Greg Piatt, of the Oklahoma Pharmacist Association.
Oklahoma independent pharmacists were out in force at the Oklahoma Capitol last week, singing the bill’s praises.
They say currently some pharmacy benefit managers are telling their customers to go to large chains.
Reportedly, the average Oklahoman pays the same price but, they say, the manager makes a large payment, sometimes 10 times the cost of the meds, to the chain pharmacy on the side.
They say it will ultimately put independent pharmacies out of business and limit availability for Oklahomans
“That’s important for Oklahomans, especially in rural areas where access to health care and pharmacists can be 40 to 50 miles away,” said Piatt.
The bill passed easily through the Oklahoma House and Senate. But late last month, Governor Kevin Stitt vetoed the measure.
Stitt says larger employers that are self-insured would face too much red tape.
In a statement, the governor said that the bill “places an undo burden on employers.” He added that the “cost of this burden would be passed on to Oklahoma employees.”
Some members of the Legislature agree with the chief executive.
“They want PBM’s transparency. They don’t want to hurt the small pharmacy, that is not their intent,” said Rep. Marilyn Stark.
Some say the bill restricts mail-order prescription drugs too much, hurting Oklahomans.
“If our goal is to lower health care costs, why are we specifically preventing discounts being offered?” said Sen. Julie Daniels.
The bill passed both chambers with veto proof majorities, but will it be put to a vote to override the governor?
Bill supporters are expected to lobby lawmakers this week to try to make it happen.
“This isn’t about forcing anyone to go anywhere, they can choose. The companies that are on the other side of this are so large and have so many resources. At some point, we need to start doing what’s right for Oklahomans.”
KFOR talked to the bill’s author. He says he has requested a veto override vote in the Senate but is unsure if it will actually happen in the last week legislators are scheduled to be at the Capitol.