Contributed article by the Illinois Senate Democrats.
SPRINGFIELD – Pharmacy middle men are driving up the costs of prescription drugs for customers and squeezing out rural pharmacies, all while putting taxpayers on the hook for greater costs, State Senator Andy Manar said.
The Bunker Hill Democrat is renewing his effort to impose state oversight on pharmacy benefit managers, or PBMs, that negotiate drug prices and benefits on behalf of insurance plans. This week he introduced Senate Bill 652. House Majority Leader Greg Harris (D-Chicago) has introduced similar legislation, House Bill 465, in the House.
“Delivery of health care to rural and underserved communities is at the heart of what this bill is about,” Manar said following a rally with hundreds of pharmacists at the Capitol on Wednesday. “If we don’t change the course we’re on, we’re going to have entire counties in downstate Illinois without a single pharmacist in operation. I’m very alarmed by what we’re seeing.”
Independent pharmacies – many of them small business owners in rural communities – say they are at a disadvantage and are being squeezed out of business because of PBMs’ practices.
PBMs are largely unregulated and have not been subject to oversight, auditing or transparency laws in Illinois, even though they manage public money through the Medicaid program.
“If PBMs are allowed to carry on and continue stamping out competition and drive up prices, we have to expect there will be fewer small, local pharmacies as time goes on,” Manar said.
A recent audit in Ohio showed that PBMs made more than $224 million off the Medicaid program.