Home » Legislative Update from State Senator Joey Hensley March 31, 2021

Legislative Update from State Senator Joey Hensley March 31, 2021

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   Legislation to give patients more control over their prescription drugs passes Senate Commerce and Labor Committee

   Legislation to make certain reforms to how Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBMs) operate in Tennessee was approved by the Senate Commerce Committee. Senate Bill 1617 would help ensure patients can use the pharmacies they choose and trust rather than being forced by their insurance companies to use specialty pharmacies that often don’t meet patients’ needs. This is particularly important for patients with chronic, complex or rare diseases.

   PBMs are companies that manage prescription drug benefits on behalf of health insurers, Medicare Part D drug plans, large employers and others. They are owned by insurance companies and often own pharmacies as well. As a big industry in the U.S., the top three PBMs in America service 230 million patients. Senate Bill 1617 would also ensure price reductions negotiated by the PBMs pass through the pharmacy directly to the consumer and that pharmacies are not paid below their acquisition cost.

   In addition, the bill seeks to prohibit PBMs from discriminating against 340B facilities, which are health care safety net providers that serve the state’s most vulnerable populations. Currently, PBMs can amend a 340B entity’s contract and reimburse at a lower rate than negotiated, essentially withholding money from indigent care facilities. This can be detrimental to these entities which are working hard to stay open and provide care to those who need it most. Finally, the bill improves transparency for patients by stating that a PBM has a responsibility to report any entitlement benefit percentage to both the plan and covered person. It will also remove opaqueness within the PBM system by freeing up data to provide accurate information to patients at the point of care, empowering discussions and decisions about medicine a patient can afford and what it is going to cost. The bill now moves to the Senate Finance, Ways and Means Committee for consideration.

   Legislation calls for statewide Silver Alert Program to improve safe recovery of missing seniors and adults with disabilities

   The Senate Judiciary Committee approved legislation creating a statewide Silver Alert Program to strengthen local efforts to safely recover seniors and vulnerable adults with disabilities who are missing in Tennessee. Senate Bill 102 puts implementation and oversight for the program under the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, which has been effective in overseeing the state’s Amber Alert Program to locate missing children. Currently, local law enforcement agencies are responsible for issuance of a Care Alert.

   This legislation aims to put more resources behind locating missing seniors and vulnerable adults like we do with our Amber Alert Program for missing children. It calls on local law enforcement agencies to notify the TBI of a missing vulnerable adult so they can work in tandem with the statewide media and transportation officials in alerting the public.”

  The Silver Alert legislation defines a missing person as an individual age 60 or older, whose whereabouts is unknown and who is believed to be in danger because of age, health, mental health conditions or physical disability. The alert would be issued when the missing person is believed to be unable to return to safety without assistance and it can be in combination with certain weather or environmental conditions. In addition, the alert would apply to a person who suffers from a documented case of dementia, intellectual, developmental or physical disability. The Silver Alert program is designed to quickly disseminate descriptive information about the missing person, so that citizens can be on the lookout for the endangered person and notify local law enforcement with any relevant information. This legislation will ensure the best opportunity for that information to be widely distributed so we can bring missing vulnerable adults home as quickly as possible. The bill now goes to the Senate Finance, Ways, and Means Committee for consideration of the bills’ fiscal impact.

   Governor’s Emergency Powers / Legislative Oversight 

   Senate Bill 1603 passed through the Senate Government Operations Committee, addressing the emergency powers of the governor. The bill would provide legislative oversight by requiring the Government Operations Joint Evaluation Committee on Judiciary and Government to review any entity of state government that is created through the governor’s emergency powers. The committee is solely expected to report to the General Assembly on whether the entity and its functions should be continued or discontinued within five days of the entity’s review. Furthermore, all public purchases and goods and services contracts made by an executive agency will be subject to public purchasing laws as of July 1, 2021.The bill now moves forward to the Senate State and Local Committee with a positive recommendation.

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