Physician Dispensing will again be before the Florida legislature next year, and word is that legislators may be in short supply. In accordance with established tradition on this subject, I am recommending that Florida employers buy their legislator now, and avoid the post holiday rush.
I had the opportunity last week to listen to Florida Senator Alan Hays discuss Physician Dispensing and the failed attempts to fix the issue in this state. Hays was the sponsor for the now failed SB 668, which would have required physicians who fulfill their own prescriptions to abide by the same pricing structure that other pharmacies follow.
Hays was extraordinarily candid about what happened to the legislative process on this bill, and, calling it a “dismal, dismal, situation”, was highly critical of the blatant influence money played in its defeat. By most accounts one Florida firm, involved with the repackaging of drugs allowing physicians to charge exorbitant prescription fees, spent more than $3,000,000 supporting various Florida legislators in the last two years. Employees of that company donated over $55,000 to the national Senate campaign of outgoing Florida Senate President Mike Haridopolis. They represented the second largest group of contributors to his campaign. Hays, who says he had the votes to pass SB 668, makes it quite clear that it was Haridopolis, who had promised to “neither help nor hinder” the bill, that killed the effort by ultimately refusing to allow the bill to come to the floor for an up or down vote.
Hays cited estimates that the failure of SB 668 will cost Florida businesses $62 million dollars a year.
I spoke with the Senator, and asked him if this bill would be coming back. His answer: “Does a one legged duck swim in a circle?”
Employers in Florida need to be prepared. Last year we apparently did not buy any legislators, or certainly did not buy enough, and that appears to be a severe miscalculation on our part. I am recommending we buy our legislators now, before they’re all gone. A legislator price list has not been released yet, but I expect it soon will be. It is also possible that you may be able to put your house rep or Senator on layaway, since the session will not be until early next year. You'll need to speak with their office about that.
I’ll be running more articles about this in coming months. There is much for employers and the insurance community to do. But we also need to act now. Call your Florida Senator and Representative (those that aren't term limited) and ask them how much it will cost to buy their vote on controlling Physician Dispensing costs in the next session. After all, this is Florida, and in this state we pride ourselves on value, and you get what you pay for.