Before becoming doctors, medical students take the Hippocratic oath, which includes a pledge to “first, do no harm.” This important, common-sense principle for health care professions is one that lawmakers in Raleigh would be wise to adopt. Right now, legislation is being considered that would not meet the standard of “do no harm.”
HB 246, the Pharmacy Benefits Manager (PBM) bill, may seem obscure compared to other high-profile bills being considered this year, but make no mistake, it would increase prescription drug costs for North Carolina families and health care plan sponsors, including small businesses and large employers. HB 246 would further government health care overreach by adding burdensome new regulations that dictate how employers, and other health care plan sponsors, contract with private businesses to provide health care for their workers and members.
Costs are already high across the board for North Carolinians. Legislators must focus on increasing free-market competition that lowers costs for patients and employers, not pushing through costly government mandates.
HB 246 limits employers’ and other health care plan sponsors’ ability to use lower-cost pharmacy options as part of the health coverage they offer. Lawmakers should be making it easier for businesses to thrive in North Carolina, not putting up new barriers that make it harder and more expensive to provide good-paying jobs with competitive health care benefits. The legislation also takes choices away from patients by reducing access to convenient and cost-effective home delivery of medication, which is a valuable option for patients living in rural areas or folks like seniors who may have limited mobility or who can’t easily access transportation to pick up their prescriptions in person.
HB 246 would also result in greater out-of-pocket expenses on prescription drugs, including a new $10.24 fee for most prescriptions filled in North Carolina. That means more money out of patients’ pockets — and for families that depend on multiple medications, the new costs would add up quickly.
This health cost-exploding bill comes as North Carolina families continue to struggle with high inflation. A High Point University poll from January found that 87% of North Carolinians said concerns over inflation have affected their major spending decisions. Health care costs are a key variable in this equation as 68% of North Carolina residents reported that they are paying higher prices for health care this year compared to last year, 1 of every 3 North Carolinians canceled a health care appointment in the last year because they thought costs would be too high, and 41% chose to delay getting health care services due to cost.
I believe lawmakers are trying to be responsive to their constituents’ concerns over rising health care and prescription drug costs. State legislators must reject the urge to address every problem with more government regulation. Allowing employers to choose the health care and prescription drug coverage that works best for their business and their employees, giving patients more options to access their medication, and encouraging private competition in health care would help counteract cost increases. HB 246 takes the opposite approach and should be abandoned before lawmakers inadvertently drive prescription drug costs even higher.
This is why I vehemently oppose this bill and further government interference. I hope you’ll also stand against HB 264 and the kind of government cronyism, picking of winners and limiting of choice that it represents.
Travis Groo is chair of the Libertarian Party of Wake County.