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Merrill: Rejecting Pharmacy Benefit Manager Reform Act will protect Alabamians

As our nation grapples with the ongoing debates surrounding healthcare reform, our elected representatives must prioritize the interests of patients.

I encourage Sen. Tommy Tuberville to stand against the Pharmacy Benefit Manager Reform Act, S. 1339, introduced by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).

This bill will do more harm than good to our state’s patients and the businesses that provide healthcare coverage to their employees.

The proposed bill seeks to impose increased government control over healthcare, specifically targeting pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) and their role in lowering patient costs. PBMs are vital in administering drug plans for over 275 million Americans who rely on health insurance from various sources.

They have gained popularity due to their ability to secure lower prices for prescription drugs, translating into tangible benefits for patients. On average, PBMs save patients around $1,040 annually, demonstrating their effectiveness in reducing drug costs.

A key aspect of PBMs’ success lies in their ability to negotiate for the vast groups they serve. By leveraging their influence, PBMs secure significant savings, which lower prices for health plan sponsors and patients.

These savings, ranging from 40 to 50% on prescription drugs and related medical expenses, significantly alleviate the financial burden on patients and contribute to the overall affordability of healthcare. 

However, the proposed S. 1339 threatens to disrupt this delicate balance by introducing burdensome, big government red tape, such as demanding the disclosure of proprietary information. This move could hinder competition and harm consumers.

The intricate, privately negotiated agreements that PBMs enter into achieve the best possible patient and business outcomes. Forcing these agreements into the public domain could lead to unintended consequences, including increased costs and diminished quality of care.

Furthermore, the bill aims to alter and restrict essential practices that PBMs use to lower drug prices, such as spread pricing, administration fees, and rebates. This interventionist approach by the government runs counter to the principles of free markets and healthy competition.

By limiting the options available to PBMs, S. 1339 could inadvertently restrict patients’ access to affordable medications and stifle innovation in the healthcare sector. This bill should raise concerns among proponents of free markets and those who value patient choice and access to a diverse range of treatment options.

One of the most pressing concerns is that supporting S. 1339 could open the door to further government involvement in healthcare. If passed, this bill will set a precedent that encourages the expansion of government-run healthcare and, ultimately, a move toward socialized medicine.

For those who believe in the power of free markets and individual choice, supporting such a bill contradicts these core principles and could have far-reaching consequences.

I encourage our senior senator to  oppose jeopardizing our healthcare system’s successful free market mechanisms that deliver lower prices for patients, such as PBMs. The potential consequences of S. 1339 on patients, businesses, and the broader healthcare landscape are not worth the risk.

John Merrill served as the 53rd Secretary of State for Alabama from 2015-23.

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