Travis Tate

Travis Tate

During the most recent legislative session, the Texas Legislature passed harmful legislation that will upend the way many Texas families access their critical medications.

Among the worst is House Bill 1919, legislation that benefits a select group of pharmacy owners and prohibits small businesses from offering lower-cost pharmacy options to their employees by effectively banning money-saving preferred pharmacy networks.

That’s why it’s so disappointing to see organizations like the Texas Pharmacy Business Council throw their support behind a measure that will hurt patients and small businesses across the Lone Star State.

We had hoped the legislature would refocus their efforts on legislation that would ensure all Texans have access to safe, effective, and affordable medications by reining in the true source of rising prescription drug prices: the list prices set by big pharmaceutical companies. 

As a former retail pharmacist, I know first-hand that affordable prescription drugs are a hallmark of good health. Denying small businesses the ability to select affordable options will increase prescription drug costs for Texas’ working families, especially for individuals managing chronic or complex conditions like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, cancer, and autoimmune conditions. Many of these conditions disproportionately affect lower-income families and people of color — meaning this bill could further erode these families’ financial footing.

Just as health plans use preferred networks of doctors, hospitals, and other providers, they also rely on preferred pharmacy networks to keep costs lower for families. Unfortunately, House Bill 1919 will increase copayments, deductibles, and premiums for Texas patients and small businesses by approximately 14 percent, according to a CVS Health analysis, by prohibiting the use of these cost-saving tools.

Preferred pharmacy networks help Texas families by lowering premiums, copays and deductibles; improving patient health, and reducing the costs associated with avoidable medical care. Our approach is proven to work for patients and businesses: in 2020, CVS Health’s pharmacy benefit manager held the rate of growth in prescription drugs to just 2.9 percent, and one-third of our clients saw overall lower drug costs than the prior year.

HB 1919 will penalize thousands of Texas businesses and families to enrich a select group of pharmacy owners. Government should not stand in the way of employer flexibility or patients’ ability to access lower-cost prescriptions. Texans deserve better.

 

Travis Tate, PharmD is senior director, employer clinical practice at CVS Health.

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