Drug dispensing fight flares again

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Renewing a long-running debate, a House subcommittee Tuesday approved a plan that would reduce the costs of drugs dispensed by physicians to workers-compensation insurance patients.

Some of the Capitol’s most-influential business groups are lobbying for the bill (HB 605), arguing that physician dispensing of what are known as “repackaged” drugs has increased insurance costs. The House last year approved a similar measure, but the Senate did not go along.

The bill centers on doctors dispensing drugs in their offices, instead of writing prescriptions that would get filled at pharmacies. Bill sponsor Matt Hudson, R-Naples, said he is trying to limit the costs of such drugs, not bar doctors from dispensing in their offices.

“This bill doesn’t do anything to prohibit a physician from dispensing,” Hudson said, before the House Health Quality Subcommittee voted unanimously to approve the measure.

But the bill is opposed by the Florida Medical Association and Automated HealthCare Solutions, a politically influential South Florida firm that sells drug-dispensing software to doctors. Supporters of physician dispensing have contended that the practice can help ensure that patients get and take their medications — for example, patients who have mobility problems.

The National Council on Compensation Insurance, an organization that plays a key role in determining workers-compensation rates in Florida, estimated last year that the proposed changes would save $27.3 million in employer insurance costs. But Tom Panza, a lobbyist for Automated HealthCare Solutions, said opponents think that estimate is flawed.

“We don’t think the cost is anywhere near what NCCI has stated,” Panza said.

Drug repackaging is a process that involves dividing bulk supplies of pharmaceuticals into smaller packages, which then can be dispensed in places such as doctors’ offices. The workers-compensation system includes a formula that limits how much can be charged for prescriptions filled at pharmacies, but repackaging affects the prices of drugs.

Hudson’s bill would prevent repackaged drugs from being more expensive than other prescriptions in the workers-compensation system. The Senate Banking and Insurance Committee is scheduled Wednesday to take up the Senate version of the measure (SB 662).

Limiting the drug costs has been a priority in recent years of business groups such as the Florida Chamber of Commerce, Associated Industries of Florida and the National Federation of Independent Business.

“This loophole allows for physicians to ignore what has been established by the Legislature and charge exorbitant prices for prescription drugs, which is a practice that undermines the purpose of the entire (workers compensation) system,” AIF General Counsel Tammy Perdue said in a prepared statement after Tuesday’s meeting.

Via Jim Saunders of the News Service of Florida.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.