PCMA: Mississippi's 'Secret Prescription Drug Tax' Will Raise Costs

Mar 01, 2011, 10:57 ET from Pharmaceutical Care Management Association

Controversial Provision Quietly Buried in S.B. 2445

WASHINGTON, March 1, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A bill that would tax the companies that manage prescription drug benefits – and subject them to regulation by the drugstore owners they contract with – will drive up prescription drug costs in Mississippi, according to the Pharmaceutical Care Management Association (PCMA), the trade group for America's pharmacy benefits managers (PBMs). PBMs manage drug benefits for most of America's businesses, state and federal government agencies, and Medicare Part D.

The bill, S.B. 2445, would impose new fees on PBMs and make them accountable to the State Board of Pharmacy, which consists largely of drugstore owners who traditionally oppose the cost cutting tools used by PBMs. Currently, PBMs are overseen by the State Insurance Commissioner – an office which has no financial stake in the outcome of its decisions.

"The companies that reduce prescription drug costs should not face new secret taxes or be regulated by the very drugstore owners they contract with. It's a conflict of interest that enables drugstore owners to give themselves a raise at the expense of those who pay for prescription drugs," said PCMA President and CEO Mark Merritt. "Ironically, Mississippi's Medicaid program currently wastes millions every year by paying drugstores more than twice what Medicare and the commercial market pay."

According to a recent report, Mississippi's Medicaid program could save $346 million over the next decade by managing pharmacy benefits more like typical state employee plans, commercial-sector employer plans, and Medicare Part D. In contrast to Mississippi, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie announced last week his 2012 budget will include a proposal to modernize the state's Medicaid program. Recent polling finds voters prefer this option to cutting benefits for patients or payments to doctors and hospitals.

Unlike the efforts by other states to lower prescription drug costs in Medicaid and other programs, passage of S.B. 2445 would ultimately result in increased costs for Mississippi consumers and payers.

PCMA represents the nation's pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs), which improve affordability and quality of care through the use of electronic prescribing (e-prescribing), generic alternatives, mail-service pharmacies, and other innovative tools for 200-plus million Americans.

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SOURCE Pharmaceutical Care Management Association