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House OKs bills for transparency in pharmacies, health care

Prescription drugs photo
U.S. Army via Wikimedia | Public Domain

A series of bills that aim to make getting medication and medical care easier, more affordable and transparent passed the Michigan House Wednesday.

One area of concern has been the growing cost of insulin to manage diabetes. According to the state health department, about 870,000 adults in Michigan in 2016 had been diagnosed with diabetes, which amounts to 1 in 10 adults.

One bill would cap copays on 30-day prescriptions of insulin at $50.

Rep. Mark Tisdel said he hopes the bill will make things better for those who struggle to afford insulin.

“This bill shifts the pain from individuals that need insulin to live, to the larger, better organized and politically represented health insurance companies and employers, and there’s plenty of pain to shift through no fault of the Michigan residents that need this insulin every single day for the rest of their lives,” the Rochester Hills Republican said.

Several bills passed would regulate pharmacy benefit managers who act as middlemen between drug manufacturers and pharmacies. Such positions would have to be licensed and they would be required to provide transparency reports.

Rep. Julie Calley said the legislation would improve prescription drug access and affordability.

“This bill increases transparency and accountability and restricts the nefarious ways in which these middlemen profit at the expense of the people we serve,” the Portland Republican said. “This bill prioritizes people before profits. We have the opportunity to make a difference. After all, lifesaving medication is worthless if people can’t afford it.”

Most of the bills passed with large bipartisan support, except for a bill that would allow health professionals licensed in other states to provide telehealth services in Michigan without a state license.

Michigan House Speaker Jason Wentworth commended the House for passing the legislation and showed his support for expanding telehealth.

“We didn’t need a pandemic to put a highlight on this, but it’s very convenient for rural, underserved communities that don’t have primary care physicians in abundance and this is going to be competition.” he said during a news conference after the vote. “I think this is going to be a successful initiative.”

The legislation will now head to the Michigan Senate and, if approved, to the governor’s desk.