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Debate over pharmacy reimbursement bill expected to intensify

A new pharmacy reimbursement bill is facing increasing pushback over a $10.64 fee that will be added to every prescription drug purchase in Alabama.

House Bill 238 passed out of an Alabama House Insurance Committee earlier this week. The bill requires pharmacy benefit managers to reimburse in-network pharmacies for the cost of acquiring medication and also adds a dispensing fee set by the federal government and used in programs like Medicaid.

The bill is sponsored by State Rep. Phillip Rigsby (R-Huntsville), a pharmacist himself who sold his pharmacy a few years ago.

Rigsby argued that the $10.64 fee is needed to help small pharmacies, particularly in rural areas, cover their costs. Opponents believe the fee will just hurt everyday consumers.

RELATED: FAIR Meds Act: Friend or foe of Alabama families?

State Sen. Arthur Orr (R-Decatur) believes the new bill will face growing opposition as more people find out the details of the legislation.

“I think is the awareness gets out there and more and more people understand it,” Orr said Friday on WVNN radio in Huntsville. “I think it’s gonna be a tougher slog for the bill in the days ahead.”

The Alliance of Alabama Healthcare Consumers (AAHC) also came out against the bill this week, saying it just will increase costs on those who need the medicine.

“The bill proposes an additional $10.64 fee on every prescription which means an estimated extra $275 per person annually or $1,100 for a family,” AAHC said in a statement.

“The bill fails to tackle the root problem – the exorbitant drug prices set by drug manufacturers,” the group added. “Alabama businesses will bear increased costs for providing prescription drug coverage and raising employee benefit costs.”

Yaffee is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News and hosts “The Yaffee Program” weekdays 9-11 a.m. on WVNN. You can follow him on Twitter @Yaffee

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