Jill Nolin, Georgia Recorder
January 24, 2024
Another attempt to push through a measure that would require prescription drug discounts to be shared with Georgia consumers failed Wednesday, despite an in-person boost from Congressman Buddy Carter who argued in favor of the bill.
The Pooler Republican, pharmacist and former state lawmaker made a rare appearance at a state legislative committee meeting Wednesday to make the case for a bill that would require pharmacy benefit managers to share at least half of their negotiated discounts with consumers.
The measure also called for reporting requirements meant to increase transparency.
Pharmacy benefit managers act as the go-between for health insurance companies and prescription drugmakers and negotiate discounts on behalf of the insurers in the form of rebates with the manufacturers.
But Carter argued that those discounts do not find their way to the consumer.
“Do pharmaceutical manufacturers need to do a better job on pricing? Yes, they do. But at least they’re putting money into research and development,” Carter said Wednesday. “PBMs aren’t putting any money into research and development. Not one penny. They’re putting money in their pockets. I’m not opposed to anybody making money but come on guys.”
The proposal, sponsored by Augusta Republican Rep. Mark Newton, easily cleared the House last session before stalling in a Senate committee as the session came to a close. But another vote and a congressional champion didn’t help the bill this go-round: It failed with a 5-to-8 vote Wednesday after only losing by one vote last year.
Other lawmakers voiced unease over the limited impact of the bill, since it would not apply to anyone covered by federally regulated health insurance plans, and argued the changes would just increase costs for others.
Newton’s bill also ran into opposition from insurers, pharmacy benefit managers and the National Federation of Independent Business, which represents small businesses.
But supporters say any across-the-board increase would be minimal and that the changes could help patients save money on their prescription medications.
Those arguments weren’t enough to sway the skeptics, including senators from both sides of the aisle.
“I don’t know any examples where we say, ‘you know what, guys, you’re getting too much money. So, we’re going to stop that and make you have to give it to the person that you’re helping to negotiate for,” said Sen. Kim Jackson, a Stone Mountain Democrat who voted against the bill.
Jackson argued the pharmacy benefit managers are just doing a job.
“You are right in saying that the PBM is doing a job. They are doing a job on the patients of the state of Georgia, I will assure you,” Carter said in response.
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