1 month ago

Alabama Senate passes bill that could lower prescription drug costs for many Alabamians

MONTGOMERY — The Alabama Senate has unanimously approved a bill by State Sen. Arthur Orr (R-Decatur) that could help lower prescription drug costs for hardworking families in the Yellowhammer State.

SB 73, which passed the Senate 27-0 on Wednesday, clarifies that pharmacy benefit managers cannot use contractual “gag clauses” to forbid pharmacists from telling customers if they can save money by buying a prescription out-of-pocket with cash.

As of 2018, 25 other states had already banned the gag clauses that pharmacy benefit managers sometimes seek to impose on local pharmacists.

“Senate Republicans are committed to lowering healthcare costs for Alabama families, and I commend Senator Orr for sponsoring this important legislation,” Senate Majority Leader Greg Reed (R-Jasper) said in a statement.

Prescription drugs are sometimes more expensive when purchased via insurance rather than with cash because pharmacy benefit managers can also charge co-pays that are more expensive than the drug itself — and then “clawback” part of the co-pay from the local pharmacist.

Orr’s proposal bans these clawbacks, along with the gag clauses.

“This bill is about protecting the individual consumer, and allowing local pharmacists to inform their customers when it would be cheaper for the customer to buy a prescription drug with cash, out-of-pocket,” Orr explained. “You should have transparent pricing in the healthcare market, and consumers should know which options are most affordable for them and their families.”

Pharmacist Steve Hoffart told NBC News that at his pharmacy in Magnolia, Texas, a customer had to pay $43 for the cholesterol drug Simvastatin. If the customer had paid cash, it would only have cost $19, according to Hoffart.

Orr’s bill also requires pharmacy benefit managers to register with the Alabama Department of Insurance, which will oversee the industry should SB 73 become law.

The bill now goes to the Alabama House of Representatives for consideration. There are eight legislative days left in the 2019 regular session.

“At the end of day, we want consumers to be able to shop for the best deal possible in the prescription drug market — that’s one of the keys to driving drug costs down for Alabama families,” Orr concluded.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

10 hours ago

Alabama State Port Authority names new deputy director

The Alabama State Port Authority has named Richard T. Clark to the position of deputy director. According to a release from the agency, Clark’s appointment will take effect July 16.

“We conducted a nationwide search with one of the country’s premier maritime and port industry recruiting firms and the Port Authority received resumes from quite a few qualified candidates,” said James K. Lyons, director and chief executive officer of the Alabama State Port Authority. “Mr. Clark stood out amongst all the applicants and was selected for this position. We look forward to Rick joining the Port Authority team.”

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Clark, with over 30 years of maritime industry experience, began his career at Cooper T. Smith in New Orleans before joining Puerto Rico Marine Management, Inc. to direct the company’s terminal, cargo and warehouse operations. Clark additionally held a number of senior management positions with both ocean carriage and terminal stevedoring companies. He most recently served as interim chief operating officer of GT USA Wilmington and U.S. manager of operations at GT USA, LLC, a subsidiary of Gulftainer, an independent port management and 3PL (third-party logistics) company based in the United Arab Emirates with operations in six countries.

“I have been privileged to work a career surrounded by some brilliant leaders and look forward to bringing the knowledge and experienced gained through those many years to serve the Alabama State Port Authority team,” remarked Clark.

The Alabama State Port Authority owns and operates the State of Alabama’s deep-water port facilities at the Port of Mobile and its public facilities handled over 25 million tons of cargo.

11 hours ago

Shelby-negotiated bill passes Senate that would give Trump additional $4.59 billion to combat border crisis

The U.S. Senate on Wednesday overwhelmingly passed a bill chiefly negotiated by Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) that will provide much-needed funding for the security and humanitarian crisis at the nation’s southern border.

The emergency supplemental appropriations legislation, which passed the Senate Appropriations Committee last week by a vote of 30-1, provides an additional $4.59 billion to address the border crisis and contains no poison pills from either party.

The full Senate on Wednesday passed the legislation by an overwhelming vote of 84–8 after listening to remarks delivered by Shelby on the floor.

During that speech before the vote, Shelby stated, “This is a solid bill. It provides the resources needed to address the crisis we face.”

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“It contains no poison pills, and it is poised to pass the Senate with strong bipartisan support, unlike the version that came out of the House last night,” he continued. “So I say to our colleagues in the House, now that there is bipartisan acknowledgment that the crisis on our southern border is real, do not derail the one bipartisan vehicle with a real chance of becoming law.”

“Those who want to alleviate the suffering on our southern border will soon have a bipartisan path forward in the Senate bill,” Shelby commented. “Those who choose to obstruct over partisan demands will soon have a lot of questions to answer when this crisis escalates further. There is no excuse for Congress leaving town at the end of the week without getting this done. Let’s come together and do our job.”

The Senate on Wednesday also defeated the partisan version of the appropriations legislation passed by House Democrats the day previous.

Reports say that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) currently does not plan to hold a vote on the bipartisan compromise version that just passed the Senate, leaving the funding in limbo.

Shelby’s full floor remarks from Wednesday, as follows:

There is no longer any question that the situation along our southern border is a full-blown humanitarian and security crisis.

Leader McConnell has firmly established this fact here on the Senate floor, and charges from the other side of a manufactured crisis have fallen silent.

At this juncture there is little need to recapitulate the case for action.

We know what our professionals on the front lines need to get a handle on the situation.

The only question is, will Congress come together and act or fall prey to partisanship while the crisis escalates further?

I am pleased to say that last week the Appropriations Committee charted a course for strong, bipartisan action.

By a vote of 30-1, the committee approved an emergency appropriations bill to address the crisis at the border. 30-1.

Such an overwhelming bipartisan vote would not have been possible without the cooperation of my good friend and Vice Chairman, Senator Leahy.

I want to thank Vice Chairman Leahy for working with me to find a path forward.

This bipartisan committee product, which I will soon offer as a substitute amendment to the House bill, provides $4.59 billion in emergency supplemental appropriations to address the humanitarian and security crisis at the border.

It does not contain everything Vice Chairman Leahy wanted. It does not contain everything I wanted.

More importantly, it does not contain any poison pills from either side.

That is why it passed the Appropriations Committee by a vote of 30-1.

And that is what gives us the best chance of passing a bill without further delay.

I want to briefly outline for my colleagues the particulars of the package reported by the Appropriations Committee.

Of the total funding provided, the lion’s share – $2.88 billion – will help the Department of Health and Human Services provide safe and appropriate shelter and care for children in its custody.

An additional $1.1 billion is included for Customs and Border Protection, to establish migrant care and processing facilities; provide medical care and consumables; and pay travel and overtime costs for personnel.

$209 million is provided for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, to fund transportation costs and medical care for detainees; conduct human trafficking operations; and again, to pay travel and overtime costs for personnel.

$30 million is for FEMA, to reimburse states and localities for expenses they have incurred related to the massive influx of migrants in their communities.

$220 million is included for the Department of Justice, to help process immigration cases and provide badly needed resources to the U.S. Marshals Service for the care and detention of Federal prisoners.

Finally, $145 million is provided for the various branches of the U.S. military who have incurred operating expenses in support of multiple missions along the border.

This is a solid bill. It provides the resources needed to address the crisis we face. It contains no poison pills.

And it is poised to pass the Senate with strong bipartisan support, unlike the version that came out of the House last night.

So I say to our colleagues in the House: now that there is bipartisan acknowledgment that the crisis on our southern border is real, do not derail the one bipartisan vehicle with a real chance of becoming law.

Those who want to alleviate the suffering on our southern border will soon have a bipartisan path forward in the Senate bill.

Those who choose to obstruct over partisan demands will soon have a lot of questions to answer when this crisis escalates further.

There is no excuse for Congress leaving town at the end of the week without getting this done.

Let’s come together and do our job. And with that I yield the floor.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

11 hours ago

Sewell: Trump administration lying about justification for auto tariffs

Representative Terri Sewell (AL-07) on Tuesday released a statement saying the Trump administration is not being truthful about automotive industry imports posing a threat to America’s national security.

Last month, President Donald Trump concurred with a U.S. Department of Commerce Section 232 report that deemed imports of automobiles and automobile parts as a “national security threat.” The president, at that same time, ordered U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to open a negotiation process with affected countries like Japan and, if agreements are not reached within 180 days, tariffs could be instituted on auto and auto parts imports from those countries.

This led to global industry leaders and companies with a presence in Alabama to express grave concern about the ramifications Trump’s threatened auto tariffs could have.

On Tuesday, Sewell announced the House passage of an amendment to the Commerce, Justice and Science funding bill calling on the Trump administration to publicly release that Section 232 report.

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“It has been over four months since the Department of Commerce submitted their Auto 232 Report to the White House, and neither Congress nor the public has seen the report,” Sewell lamented.

“Unfortunately, I think I know why this Administration will not share this report,” she continued. “It’s because the products hard-working Americans in the auto sector design, build, sell and service are not a threat to our national security. The auto workers in my district are terrified that any day President Trump could announce tariffs that would threaten their jobs.”

Sewell has been an outspoken opponent of potential Trump administration auto tariffs.

She led a bipartisan group of 159 lawmakers in a letter urging Director of the National Economic Council Larry Kudlow and Trump against imposing costly new tariffs. Sewell and others have also filed legislation to delay possible auto tariffs by requiring the International Trade Commission to conduct a comprehensive study on the economic importance of automotive manufacturing in America before tariffs on automobiles and auto parts could be applied.

Additionally, Sewell is the lead sponsor of the Trade Security Act, which would reform Section 232 to increase congressional oversight of the process and reassign national security threat assessments to the Department of Defense.

According to the Peterson Institute, if Section 232 auto tariffs were implemented and foreign countries retaliated, 624,000 jobs could be lost in the American auto sector.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

12 hours ago

Goats in the back: Irondale PD goes viral over ‘Old Town Road’ remix

The Irondale Police Department has gone viral after turning a bizarre call into a music video, remixing the popular song “Old Town Road” by Lil Nas X.

Posted on Tuesday, the video was captioned, “What do you do when you respond to a call about loose goats? You make a video!”

The viral sensation already has 80,000 views as of 3:00 p.m. CST on Wednesday.

Watch:

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Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

12 hours ago

Global powerhouse: UAB again ranked as nation’s best young university, one of top worldwide

The University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) has been ranked the top young university in the United States for the second consecutive year and now achieved prestigious global recognition as one of the best young universities worldwide.

A press release on Wednesday announced that UAB secured its spot as the 12th-best young university in the world in the Times Higher Education 2019 Young University Rankings, in addition to maintaining its place atop the American rankings.

Times Higher Education’s university rankings are among the world’s most comprehensive, balanced and trusted. They are considered a vital resource trusted by academics, students, their families, industry and governments globally — in other words, UAB is now a juggernaut on the international stage.

Ray L. Watts, president of UAB, commented, “The dedication and hard work of our faculty, staff, students, alumni and community supporters have once again enabled this prestigious recognition for our great institution.”

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“All of these groups continue to contribute to our growing momentum,” he outlined. “Together, we continue to make tremendous strides in education, research and every pillar of our mission, in keeping with UAB’s shared values of collaboration, excellence and achievement. I celebrate and share this tremendous honor with our UAB community, and I express our sincere thanks to all of those who came before us and formed the strong foundation we work tirelessly every day to honor and build upon.”

Times Higher Education rankings are based on stringent metrics. The group ranked more than 300 institutions from 60 different countries in this year’s Young University Rankings, which employ the same rigorous indicators as the Times Higher Education World University Rankings — with young universities measured across their teaching, research, citations, international outlooks and industry outcomes.

Universities 50 years of age and under are eligible to be included in the Young Universities ranking. The methodology for those considered Young Universities has been carefully recalibrated, with less emphasis on reputation since younger universities are still building their reputations.

“To be recognized again by Times Higher Education is a tremendous honor for our institution,” Suzanne Austin, UAB senior international officer, said. “Global recognitions — especially those as prestigious and respected as Times Higher Education — are another reason international students choose UAB as their educational home.”

UAB, which spans more than 100 city blocks — roughly a quarter of downtown Birmingham — is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.

With almost 22,000 students and more than 23,000 faculty and staff, UAB has grown into the largest single employer in Alabama, with an annual economic impact exceeding $7.15 billion.

The university boasts many nationally ranked programs, with 16 graduate and professional programs in the schools of Health Professions, Nursing, Medicine, Engineering, Education, Business and Public Health and the College of Arts and Sciences all ranked in the 2020 U.S. News Best Graduate School Rankings. The Master’s in Health Administration program in the School of Health Professions has been ranked as the best in the country.

“We expect our growth to continue, and our strategic plan, Forging the Future, will continue to enhance our ability to meet the opportunities and the challenges we will face,” Pam Benoit, UAB provost, advised.

With annual research expenditures exceeding a record $572 million, UAB continues to create new knowledge and solve critical worldwide issues.

UAB is a leader in federal research funding, ranking 21st in the nation in National Institutes of Health funding to climb 10 places on the NIH rankings in the past five years. During that time period, UAB’s total NIH funding rose more than $100 million, topping the $234 million mark in 2018. Only seven other academic medical centers in the United States increased their NIH funding by more than $100 million during that same timeframe, placing UAB among an elite group of eight academic medical centers.

Additionally, UAB Hospital, the centerpiece of the UAB Health System, is among the 20 largest hospitals in the United States. UAB Hospital’s American College of Surgeons Verified Adult Level 1 Trauma Center is the only one of its kind in Alabama. UAB Hospital and clinics saw more than a million patient visits last year. The U.S. News & World Report Best Hospitals report listed 10 of UAB’s medical specialties in the nation’s top 50 programs of their kind, and UAB also has the O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center, the only NCI-designated comprehensive cancer center in Alabama and a five-state region.

“It’s quite remarkable the positive, global change our university has accomplished in 50 short years in education, research, innovation, economic development, community engagement and patient care. Our faculty are among the best in the United States, and our rigorous and diverse curriculum is appealing to students, especially in today’s higher-education environment,” Benoit concluded.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn