House Passes Workers’ Comp Drug Formulary Bill

On Monday, April 16, the PA House passed legislation that will direct the Department of Labor and Industry to adopt a drug formulary for workers’ compensation. The intent of Senate Bill 936 is to reduce the overprescribing of opioids in dealing with the nationwide crisis. The Chamber joined with the PA Chamber of Business and Industry and dozens of chambers from across the state in supporting this legislation.

The bill passed in the Senate last October with the support of Senator John Gordner. Representatives Kurt Masser and David Millard voted in favor of the bill on Monday. The legislation now moves to the Governor’s office where it is expected to be signed.  

Wolf Administration’s Cabinet in Your Community Event Slated for Williamsport

Last month, five members of Governor Tom Wolf’s cabinet came to Bloomsburg to participate in one of the Governor’s “Cabinet in Your Community” events, a series of meetings with local community members and leaders and various members of Gov. Wolf’s cabinet. 

Another Cabinet in Your Community event is scheduled for later this month nearby, on Monday, April 30 at 1:30 p.m. at the Mary Welch Theater at Lycoming College in Williamsport. Cabinet members scheduled to appear include Jessica Altman, acting Insurance Commissioner; Dennis Davin, Secretary of Community and Economic Development; Cindy Dunn, Secretary of Conservation and Natural Resources; Dr. Rachel Levin, Physician General and Acting Secretary of Health; Russell Redding, Secretary of Agriculture; and Pedro Rivera, Secretary of Education. 

Those interested in attending should RSVP by email or call 570-614-2090 by April 24. Due to limited seating, an RSVP is required to attend. 

Governor Wolf Renews Opioid Disaster Declaration

From PA Chamber of Business & Industry

Last week, Gov. Tom Wolf held a press conference where he announced the renewal of a 90-day heroin and opioid disaster declaration that he originally issued in January. The use of this declaration has allowed for an “all-hands-on-deck” approach to opioid abuse, with the elimination of red tape that would otherwise slow down the ability to combat the crisis.

The renewal of the declaration comes at the same time that the PA Chamber is urging House lawmakers to pass S.B. 936, legislation that would help to mitigate the impact of this crisis as it relates to injured workers. The bill – which would implement a prescription drug formulary for workers’ compensation – could be brought up for a reconsideration vote as early as this month. Prescription drug formularies in WC have been effective in states around the country, which have experienced significant reductions in the number of opioid-dependent injured workers following implementation. This session, the PA Chamber has led a diverse coalition in support of the bill and has coordinated around 20 communications to lawmakers in support of the measure – 11 this year alone. Senate Bill 936 has also been the subject of several recent PA Chamber-authored letters to the editor;and we are traveling to editorial boards across the state to explain the benefits of this legislation and address misinformation disseminated by opponents of the bill, whose leaders appear to have a clear conflict of interest.

When the governor first announced the emergency declaration early this year, PA Chamber President Gene Barr issued a statement which pointed out that S.B. 936 is a critical piece of the overall strategy to combat opioid and prescription drug abuse and addiction among the injured worker population. “We fully support the governor and legislature’s bipartisan efforts to combat the opioid crisis that has touched every corner of the Commonwealth … Part of this strategy should be addressing the overuse and abuse of prescription drugs among injured workers by passing S.B. 936,” Barr said. “With the opioid crisis having officially reached emergency status, the time is now for Pennsylvania to adopt this important measure.”

The Columbia Montour Chamber is in favor of this legislation and was part of a coalition of several Chambers and other groups that sent a letter to legislators last year urging passage of this bill.

Mini Casino Survey Results

Last month, we asked our members to respond to a brief, three-question survey regarding a possible casino in our area, which followed the Bloomsburg Town Council passing a resolution that would allow a “mini casino” to locate within the town. Several other municipalities in Columbia and Montour counties have also indicated they are open to consideration. 

As a part of the 2017-18 state budget law that was signed last fall, Pennsylvania made 10 Category 4 casino licenses available through an auction process, which is currently underway. Under the legislation, local municipalities have the option as to whether or not they would allow such establishments.

Here are the results of the survey:

1. Do you think a mini casino located in our area would benefit your business?
Yes          29      40%
No           32      44%
Unsure   11       15%

2. Would you be in favor of a mini casino locating in our area?
Yes          35       49%
No           23       32%
Unsure   14       19%

3. What type of organization do you represent?
Retail                               8       11%
Restaurant/Food          11       15%
Entertainment/Arts     3        4%
Service                            25      35%
Manufacturing              7        10%
Non-profit                      18      25%

Thanks to all that took the time to respond, and congratulations to the winner of the free month of ads in E-Biz, JDog Junk Removal & Hauling.

Healthcare Perspective on Drug Formulary Bill (S.B. 936) Shared With House Lawmakers

From PA Chamber of Business & Industry

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.