Ohio’s pharmacy industry has been the topic of intense debate in Columbus over the past year. While policymakers have examined the state’s rising health-care costs and implemented new policies around Medicaid, savings have continued to elude the state.
Fingers have been pointed at various players in the system as subsidies are granted to others in the state’s Medicaid program. And, now even more radical changes are being proposed.
As the former Chairman of the Ohio House Health Committee, I was intimately involved in the state’s health-care policy for many decades. I encourage my former colleagues – slow down. Take a deep breath and guide your policy by the principle of what is best for Ohio Medicaid patients and for the taxpayers. If they move too fast, with too many dramatic changes, we could face staggering budget-busting results in the long run.
Without a doubt, high drug prices have brought new scrutiny to the drug supply chain. These issues are top of mind for every legislature and taxpayer as they have real impacts on local and state budgets and government programs. While the price of prescription drugs is decided by the manufacturer, Ohio has decided to single out one entity in particular: pharmacy benefit managers.
Pharmacy benefit managers – also known as PBMs – negotiate with drug manufacturers to ensure that consumers like you and me do not have to pay the high list prices we too often hear about in the news. They also work with pharmacies in their networks and bring savings to consumers, employers and taxpayers alike.
I have to admit that I have at times had my own doubts about the PBM model and whether there is enough transparency to ensure the taxpayers are indeed getting the best end of the deal. I believe that the new transparency pricing undertaken by the current administration is the right move. But, to cherry-pick one entity in the drug supply chain to blame for the soaring price of prescription drugs amid a complex system defies common sense. Unfortunately, Ohio taxpayers will end up paying more to provide the same drug benefits to Medicaid patients. The only difference is that independent pharmacies will be able to capture more of Ohio’s public Medicaid dollars than before. No one else benefits. Not you, not Medicaid patients, and not state taxpayers.
Before we make any changes to the drug supply chain, we must first ask ourselves, are we improving care for the people of Ohio, are we saving consumers and the state money, and are we making Medicaid more efficient. In a time of rising anger and demands for action on high drug prices, Ohio should serve as a warning to other states to be wary of seemingly easy solutions that are really just attempts to stand in the way of free-market competition, especially at the expense of taxpayers.
Focus should be paid on the problem at hand, which are the high drug prices set solely by drug manufacturers.
Lynn Wachtmann, of Napoleon, is former state representative who chaired the House Health Committee.