Bipartisan bill aims to lower drug prices

A bipartisan group of lawmakers is pushing a bill looking to lower drug prices by upping price transparency measures and along with other requirements.

The legislation, from Reps. Deb Kolste and Michael Schraa and Sens. Jon Erpenbach and Roger Roth, aims to do that by targeting pharmacy benefit managers, who negotiate with drug manufacturers on behalf of insurers.

The bill would require those pharmacy benefit managers, or PBMs, to register with the Office of the Commissioner of Insurance in order to do business in the state, as well as give OCI grounds to suspend or revoke the registration of a PBM in certain circumstances. PBMs would also be required to submit annual reports to OCI and the Legislature disclosing the rebates they receive from drugmakers to see how much the PBM pocketed versus passed onto consumers.

“We need to be confident that PBMs are not abusing their positions in the marketplace as middlemen and are acting in the best interests of their clients and patients,” Kolste, D-Janesville, said at a Capitol news conference Tuesday.

The bill, which began circulating for cosponsors Tuesday, also highlights PBMs’ relationships with pharmacies. Under the bill, PBMs, which also contract with pharmacies to dole out prescription drugs, couldn’t include so-called “gag clauses” in those contracts. The bill’s authors said those bar pharmacists from telling patients there are lower-cost options for paying for prescription drugs.  

And PBMs would also be required “to provide a reasonably adequate and accessible network of pharmacies” for consumers, according to the bill draft.

The bill’s authors said the language aims to safeguard consumers’ access to their local pharmacies and curtail mail-order prescriptions.

Erpenbach, D-Middleton, said the legislation “will help encourage small businesses to ensure consumer choice and protect people’s access to local pharmacies, if that’s where they choose to go.”

Kolste introduced a similar bill last session, but it died in committee after receiving a public hearing and no GOP cosponsors. She said 33 states have passed some sort of regulations surrounding PBMs, and she added she’s discussed the legislation with Gov. Tony Evers.

Roth, the Senate president, said he signed onto the bill this time after hearing about the issue from constituents and learning about the “immediate impact” the legislation would have on the overall price of prescription drugs.

“I really felt I had no other choice but to fight for the constituents of my district, join Sen. Erpenbach and Rep. Kolste and Rep. Schraa, and fight for the citizens of Wisconsin as well,” the Appleton Republican said.

An Evers spokeswoman said the guv is planning to review the bill, adding Evers “is committed to making healthcare more affordable and accessible for all Wisconsinites.”

See the bill draft here.

See more on PBMs in a recent PEW article here.

Hear audio from Tuesday’s news conference here.

 

 

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