Pharmacy Choice Bill back at state legislature

RBC | The Herald Times carried reports last year on legislation referred to as “pharmacy choice,” designed to help out consumers and business owners like Meeker’s Cassie Mcguire of Mcguire Auto Parts and Diana Jones of Meeker Drugs. Mcguire and Jones were both concerned that certain health insurance companies had begun to require the use of 90-day mail-order for ongoing prescription refills.
For Mcguire, this meant having to succumb to mail-order and mail delivery of her family’s prescriptions, conditions she did not like. For Jones, this meant losing a significant and possibly growing percentage of her prescription refill business. For small towns like Meeker, the trend could mean the loss of hometown pharmacies.
The bill, in the 2016 Session of the Colorado Legislature, would have prohibited an insurance company and/or their pharmacy benefit managers from requiring 90-day, mail-order refills. The bill earned the nickname “pharmacy choice.”
The bill passed the Colorado House last year on a final, mixed partisan vote of 34 to 31. It then passed out of the first of two State Senate committees to which it was assigned on a 4 to 1 vote. The bill was helped there by the fact that its prime Senate sponsor, Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling, was vice-chair of that committee. However, the bill was then killed in the second committee on a 3-2 partisan vote, four days before the very end of the Session.
One of the three votes to kill the bill came from Senator Owen Hill, R-Colorado Springs. He expressed regret at the time that he had been unable to find a satisfactory solution to concerns that could have moved the bill forward, but he promised it would be re-visited this year.
Sure enough, a new version of “pharmacy choice” legislation was introduced in the State House on March 9. It’s sponsored by Reps. Jessie Danielson, D-Wheat Ridge, and Jon Becker, R-Ft. Morgan. Danielson signed on to last year’s bill as a co-sponsor on Third Reading while Becker was one of the two prime House sponsors on the 2016 bill. Former Democratic Representative Dianne Primavera, D-Broomfield, was a prime sponsor of the bill last year, but she chose not to run for re-election in 2016.
This year’s bill, House Bill 17-1247, takes a slightly different approach by stating that a health benefit plan covering services by licensed chiropractors, optometrists, or pharmacists cannot limit or restrict the covered person’s choice of service provider. House Speaker Crisanta Duran (D-Denver) assigned the bill to the House Health, Insurance and Environment Committee where it is to be discussed for action at 1:30 p.m. on Thursday, April 13.