After months of debate, Governor John Kasich has signed the biennial Ohio Budget into law, and pharmacists have much to be relieved about!
Throughout the course of a budget debate, there are many opportunities for legislators and special interest groups to slip in law changes into the bill. With a bill large enough to cover the entire expenditures (and corresponding law changes) of the state of Ohio for two whole years, it’s the easiest way to sneak a needle into the haystack. For some professions, the impact of some of these language changes can be devastating.
During this budget season there were several items that OPA worked diligently on, and we are pleased to report that in each of these instances, pharmacists were victorious!
Medicaid cost-of-dispensing survey
The budget bill contains language that will require all pharmacies to participate in Medicaid’s biennial cost-of-dispensing survey. While OPA is not pleased with this requirement, we intend to work with Ohio Medicaid and the state legislature to see a more accurate and appropriate dispensing fee. We also have assurance that we will have input on the substance of future survey questions. However, along with this survey requirement was punitive language that would have allowed the Medicaid director to penalize any pharmacy that does not participate in the survey with an even lower dispensing fee than they are already receiving. Further troubling is that that language did not specify what that penalty might be and gave the Medicaid director blanket authority to subjectively choose just how much to punish a pharmacy that doesn’t “fully participate” in the survey. We are pleased to report that all punitive language that would have penalized pharmacies for not participating Medicaid’s cost-of-dispensing survey has been removed.
Daily OARRS reporting
The budget bill contained language that would have required all pharmacies and other entities licensed to dispense drugs to begin daily reporting to OARRS. While OPA does not necessarily disagree with daily reporting to OARRS, we do not believe that this type of language belongs in statute, and it sets a bad precedent for the legislature to regulate our profession on matters that are more appropriately handled by the Ohio State Board of Pharmacy. We are pleased to report that all language requiring daily reporting to OARRS has been removed.
Remote dispensing systems
The budget bill contained language that would have approved remote dispensing machines to operate in nursing homes and residential care facilities without any pharmacist involvement or supervision. OPA raised concerns over safety problems that could have resulted from the passing of that language. After working with legislators to alter the language and alleviate our concerns, several other organizations came forward with other concerns as well. We are pleased to report that all language authorizing remote dispensing without pharmacist involvement and oversight has been removed.
We want to thank all of the pharmacists and pharmacy students who contacted their legislators to be sure pharmacy wasn’t negatively impacted by the budget. It is no exaggeration to say that your calls and emails were a huge reason why all of the language we opposed was removed! It is through your active engagement and involvement that our profession is protected.
We also want to thank everyone who has donated to our Pharmacy Political Action Committee (PAC). Supporting the Pharmacy PAC is a huge part of successful advocacy, and we need your help to achieve our goals. Pharmacy PAC money contributed by pharmacists goes to help candidates who support pharmacy in Ohio. To contribute to our PAC and support our efforts, visit https://www.ohiopharmacists.org/aws/OPA/pt/sp/pac.
Ernest Boyd, Executive Director; Antonio Ciaccia, Director of Government & Public Affairs; and Michelle Fitzgibbon, Lobbyist
P.S. OPA is looking to build our team of pharmacy advocates at the grassroots level, and we need your help. The most effective way to protect and enhance the profession of pharmacy is at the local level, where crucial relationships with legislators are formed. To assist our legislative efforts, OPA would like to know which representatives and senators you are familiar with, or if you are interested in getting to know your legislators for the first time. Legislators like to hear from pharmacists from their districts, and you have a unique opportunity to serve as your legislator's pharmacy information source. Click here to get involved in OPA’s new Rx Advocacy Team.