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Governor signs revised pharmacy choice bill

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Gov. Stitt has signed an updated pharmacy bill after vetoing an earlier version. [Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman archives]
Gov. Stitt has signed an updated pharmacy bill after vetoing an earlier version. [Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman archives]

A second pharmacy choice bill was signed into law Tuesday, three weeks after Gov. Kevin Stitt vetoed the first one.

House Bill 2632 prohibits restrictions on a patient's right to choose a pharmacy provider without paying a penalty and calls for an advisory committee to review complaints and administer fines.

Stitt vetoed Senate Bill 841, a nearly identical bill, May 1. Lawmakers passed both bills unanimously.

HB 2632's author, Rep. Jon Echols, R-Oklahoma City, said early Tuesday he was confident the governor would sign the bill despite the earlier veto.

In his veto message, Stitt noted SB 841 attempted to regulate certain health plans in a way that is not allowed by federal law. The governor called on the Legislature to develop a compromise on the issue.

"We fixed the issue to the governor's satisfaction," Echols said.

The pharmacy choice bills were written to regulate pharmacy benefit managers, third-party negotiators between drug manufacturers and health plans. PBMs help insurers decide which drugs to cover and contract with pharmacies to distribute the medications. Three PBMs — OptumRx, Express Scripts and CVS Caremark — dominate the industry.

Opponents, which included the state chamber, urged the governor to veto both bills.

“House Bill 2632 was supposed to be a compromise that would keep prescription prices low for employees and allow employers to manage health care costs. Unfortunately, what was signed into law today fails on both sides," Fred Morgan, president and CEO of the State Chamber of Oklahoma, said in a statement issued Tuesday.

Morgan predicted two outcomes — prescription drug costs will increase for Oklahoma families and HB 2632 will be challenged in court.

Americans for Tax Reform warned the bill increases "meddling in health care markets in order to benefit small 'community' pharmacists at the expense of patients, taxpayers, and the insurance system."

A House fiscal impact analysis shows the cost to the state in increased prescription drug costs would be $7.2 million annually, and the cost of staff to regulate the law would be at least $350,000 annually.

K.S. McNutt

Kathryn McNutt covers higher education for The Oklahoman and NewsOK. Since joining the staff in August 2000, she also has worked as the Breaking News editor, Metro editor and assistant Local editor. A native of Oklahoma City, she graduated from... Read more ›

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