Pharmacy benefit managers’ group ranked No. 7 in spending for lobbying the General Assembly, after laying out $53,634 for ads

By Al Cross
Kentucky Health News

The lobbying organization for pharmacy benefit managers, the middlemen between insurance companies and drug manufacturers, spent $86,168 in its successful effort to defeat a bill in the recent legislative session that would have reined them in. They prevailed over pharmacists with the help of insurers, who argued that the bill would raise costs.

The Pharmaceutical Care Management Association ranked seventh in spending by lobbying interests in the session that ended in mid-April, mainly because it spent tens of thousands of dollars in television commercials attacking the bill. The ads started the day the bill overwhelmingly passed the House, where a pharmacist-legislator was the sponsor. PCMA said it spent a total of $53,634 on TV, internet and newspaper ads.

The bill got nowhere in the Senate, where President Robert Stivers said “When it got here, we started getting, from business sector and provider sector, various questions and comments about what the overall cost would be to various plans.”

Tom Stephens, executive director of the Kentucky Association of Health Plans, cited a state Department of Insurance statement that a family of four would have paid up to $167 more a year for coverage if the bill had passed.

House Bill 457 would have ensured that patients could pick their pharmacy, instead of being required to use one affiliated with a pharmacy benefit manager; increase transparency between insurers and PBMs; and ban PBMs from retroactively denying a pharmacy claim after adjudication, commonly referred to as “clawing back.” It passed the House 88-3.
The Federal Trade Commission voted Tuesday to investigate how pharmacy benefit managers affect the cost of prescription drugs and consumers’ access to the drugs.

Several other health-care interests, or lobbying groups with interests in health care, were big spenders on lobbying the session, according to their post-session reports. The Kentucky Chamber of Commerce was again No. 1, spending $183,949; the Kentucky Hospital Association was second with $149,046. Third and fourth were the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky, whose issues include abortion rights, $128,258, and Altria Client Services (Philip Morris Cos.), $126,793. Insurer Anthem Inc. ranked 10th by spending $70,597.

Other big health spenders were the Kentucky Medical Association, 16th, at $54,044, and HCA Healthcare, 22nd at $48,832. The state Legislative Ethics Commission’s searchable register of lobbyists, employers and lobbying expenses is online at
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