At a recent Senate Committee hearing, Gov. Tom Wolf’s nominee for Secretary of Human Services agreed that drug formularies are a “valuable and necessary tool in administering” private insurance and public programs like CHIP and Medicaid, saying “I think our experts would say that that’s the case. Yes.” This sentiment was shared by PA Chamber President Gene Barr last week in a memo to state House lawmakers that provided insight to the Wolf administration’s perspective on prescription drug formularies and urged support for S.B. 936, legislation that would implement a drug formulary for the state’s workers’ compensation system.
In addition, as Barr points out in the memo, the Wolf administration recently directed insurers to enhance prior authorization of opioids – both in commercial insurance and in the Medicaid system – and has previously championed prescribing guidelines and stronger pre-authorization in numerous areas of healthcare. Still, despite widespread support for formularies throughout healthcare, clear evidence of formularies successfully reducing opioid addiction among injured workers in other states, and the fact that Pennsylvania continues to fight an opioid and prescription drug crisis, S.B. 936 continues to be the target of opposition led by a coalition of interests whose activities were the subject of a series of recent investigative Philadelphia Inquirer articles.
“These opponents are deliberately causing confusion with baseless talking points about ‘getting in between doctors and patients’ – tough arguments to explain when not a single organization representing doctors opposes the bill, it has passed in numerous states … and no state has ever attempted to reverse course,” Barr wrote to the lawmakers. “The choice in this is simple. Vote yes on S.B. 936 to create a more transparent system for workers compensation prescribing, reduce opioid addiction rates among injured workers, and address the allegations of abuse exposed by the Inquirer. Or vote no in favor of the status quo.”
Senate Bill 936 could be taken up for a reconsideration vote in the House soon after lawmakers come back to session on the week of April 9. A previous vote on the legislation was just three votes short of passage on a day in which several supporters were unable to be in Harrisburg to vote.
The Columbia Montour Chamber is strongly in favor of this legislation and last year signed onto a coalition letter sent by the PA Chamber of Business & Industry to lawmakers on behalf of hospitals, pharmacists, addiction treatment professionals, healthcare providers, local governments, school districts, over 70 Chambers of Commerce and other business advocacy groups, encouraging passage of this bill.