Physician Dispensing in Florida – Can Money Buy Bad Policy?

Joe Paduda

Posted 1/24/12 on Managed Care Matters

One of the most powerful firms in the physician dispensing business is sending hundreds of thousands of dollars to elected officials in Florida. [sub req] The donations, to individual politicians and their affiliated organizations, come as the Florida Senate is considering a bill that would limit reimbursement of physician-dispensed drugs to the cost of the underlying (non-repackaged) drug.

This morning Mike Whitely of WorkCompCentral reported Automated Healthcare Solutions “gave more than $32,500 to Florida state lawmakers and more than $500,000 to committees associated with conservative causes and candidates in 2011…”, most of it in the last three months of 2011.

The timing is fortuitous, as Senate bill 668 was moving thru the legislative process last quarter, and is the subject of intense debate. Suffice it to say that passage of SB 688 would greatly reduce the income of companies in the physician dispensing/drug repackaging sector.

The physician dispensing bill made it out of one Senate Committee last week, albeit with a poorly-written and ill-advised amendment.

Writing in HealthNews Florida, Carol Gentry reported: “SB 668 survived its first committee in a 7 to 4 vote. But some senators who voted in favor said they may change their minds if answers to their questions aren’t forthcoming by the time it gets to the Senate floor.”

It’s unknown if the flood of cash from AHCS will affect the votes of key Senators, or cause beneficiaries to use parliamentary procedures to block the bill. The forces allied in support of the bill include the Chamber of Commerce, most of the workers comp insurers, and many employers.

And, in an interview with Whitely, a spokesperson for AHCA said the company is not focusing on the issue, saying their donations are “not a means of affecting public policy”.

Really. That’s what she said. Evidently AHCA’s half-million bucks – donated to key legislators with power over SB 688 – is not related to physician dispensing.

That being the case, I’m sure Florida’s elected legislators will do the right thing, pass the bill, and thereby reduce Florida employers’ work comp premiums by tens of millions of dollars.

What does this mean for you?

Yet another opportunity to watch the ugly, money-driven process that is politics at its worst.

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