On Thursday, the Minnesota Senate unanimously passed a bill to improve oversight of Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBMs), the middlemen in the supply chain of getting medicines to patients. This bill requires transparency and accountability for PBMs, eliminates gag clauses, and mandates adequate pharmacy networks. It also enables pharmacists to substitute more affordable alternative medications on behalf of patients and allows patients to synchronize their medication fill-dates once a year without cost. Under this new law, the common PBM strategy of clawing back dollars from local pharmacies and utilizing rebates for their own self-interest will end.
Following the passage of the bill, Senator Justin Eichorn (R-Grand Rapids) released the following statement:
“The Minnesota Senate has worked hard over the past three years to develop and pass a variety of bipartisan health care solutions designed to help Minnesota families struggling with the cost and quality of their health care. The proposal passed today is a big win for the state and will go a long way to drive down the cost of prescription drugs helping patients throughout Minnesota.”
Patient protection reforms contained in the bill include:
• Requires that PMBs act in good faith and notify health plans of conflicts of interest
• Requires new transparency measures of PBMs
• Mandates PBMs disclose any pharmacy ownership interests they have and prohibits them from offering incentives or imposing penalties that could direct patients to pharmacies they own.
• Prevents pharmacies from dispensing a drug to the consumer if there is a less expensive option
• Requires PBMs to disclose out-of-pocket cost differences between preferred network pharmacies and regular, in-network pharmacies.
• Requires pharmacies to inform customers if they can save money by paying cash for their drugs rather than involving insurance.