Florida health care officials working in the administration of Governor Ron DeSantis appear to have taken an unusual step last month to undercut the claims of independent pharmacy groups by labeling them as “flawed” and inaccurate. The message wasn’t lost on state lawmakers, who promptly spiked a pair of bills being pushed by the groups.
Last year, DeSantis pushed aggressively to promote programs that would lower the cost of prescription drugs for Floridians. Some of those initiatives rested on a fault line between independent pharmacy groups and pharmacy benefit managers that work for larger chain stores and use bulk buying strategies to get lower prescription drug prices for their members.
This session, that battle came to a head when a group called Small Business Pharmacies Aligned for Reform (SPAR) distributed a study in support of House Bill 1043 (and the tangentially-related HB 1155) that would have created a single, state-run Pharmacy Benefits Manager, and claimed the new program would generate a savings of $137.8 to $170.7 million.
After some state lawmakers began citing the SPAR claims as material fact, officials from Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) moved aggressively to slam the claims, calling the assumptions in the SPAR analysis “seriously flawed and unlikely to result in the savings included in the analysis.
Elsewhere in the agency’s document, DeSantis administration officials went on to warn of “unanticipated increases in overall costs to the Medicaid program and adverse impacts to the health care provided to 3.5 million Floridians under the program.”
AHCA officials also included the warning to lawmakers that “relying on these savings to fund the program or state budget when no verified data or information is available to support the savings estimate could create a critical budget shortfall for the Medicaid program.”
After AHCA took the rare step to openly swat down the accuracy of information being shared with lawmakers, both bills lost momentum and ultimately died in committee. House Bill 1043 failed to make it past a first reading, and was never revived, while HB 1155 was passed unanimously by the Florida House but was never taken up by the Florida Senate.