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Opinion | Capitol Hill, please do not take away my employees’ prescription discounts

PBMs are very popular because they permit small and medium-sized folks like us to punch above our weight in dealing with Big Pharma.

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Former Senator Alan Simpson (R-WY) once famously said, “There are two political parties – the Stupid Party and the Dangerous Party.” Sometimes, however, the policies that come out of Washington, D.C. are both stupid and dangerous, and the consequences for American companies are higher prices, less competition, and more government regulation. 

As a business owner in Huntsville, one of the tools that I utilize to provide for my employees is a Pharmacy Benefit Manager (PBM) to keep their prescription drug costs down.

A PBM is basically the lieutenant that many business owners who offer health plans (and even the government!) hire to negotiate effectively with drug companies and achieve bulk price discounts and fair drug pricing terms for their members. The savings PBMs secure on our drug costs – one of the most expensive portions of any healthcare package – allow us to expand our coverage and give our employees a solid healthcare plan for themselves and their families.

Needless to say, PBMs are very popular because they permit small and medium-sized folks like us to punch above our weight in dealing with Big Pharma. Studies have shown that approximately 90% of the employers who use PBMs are happy with the invaluable services they provide—and for good reason. PBMs are an effective way to reduce costs and increase the availability of needed medications. On average, they save payers and patients more than $1,000 annually. This is especially important in a state like Alabama, where data indicates that one in three Alabamians forego their needed medications due to high costs.  

Of course, such a successful program cannot escape the ever-present glare of liberal politicians and their allies in Big Pharma.

There is a movement underway, sponsored by none other than the ultra-liberal Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and counterparts like Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, to restrict the ability of PBMs to operate by subjecting them to a heavy level of oversight from D.C. bureaucrats. Sadly, this tactic is a tried and true one. Government liberals do not want any competition and vigorously look to legislate out any efficiencies in private health insurance, which will, in their twisted logic, increase the clamor for a government-run, socialist-style health care system. In other words, they do not want the private healthcare system to work for Alabamans – they want to break it so they and their fellow bureaucrats can take control. Certain members of Congress have recognized the errors in passing proposals targeting our pharmacy benefits and rejected including unnecessary government mandates in our health care in the latest spending package. It is up to our conservative leaders to continue to oppose future attempts at undermining the free market by targeting PBMs.

Naturally, pharmaceutical companies are opposed to PBMs because the lower drug prices they secure pushes their profits down, so they have created an unholy alliance with the big government liberals to convince them to push for these PBMs regulations. In return for bigger profits for Big Pharma, liberals get more government control.

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In exchange for Senator Sanders and his liberal cohort doing the bidding of the multinational pharmaceuticals, Big Pharma is happy to provide the funding behind ultra-left-wing liberal groups and politicians, most of which are entirely at odds with the values of Alabamians.

major study by the American Accountability Foundation lays bare just how deep these links go – and just how committed the pharmaceutical companies are to increasing their bottom line at the expense of freedom and liberty. All Alabamans should read this report for themselves to understand exactly how big business and big government liberals work in cahoots to achieve their own goals, with the needs of middle-class Americans cast aside. 

My company pays to use a PBM by choice. Their services have helped us achieve actual cost savings for our employees at a time when major pharma companies like Novo Nordisk are under fire for charging $1,000 for products that cost $5 to make.

Unfortunately, helping my company is not the point of misguided policies targeting PBMs – enriching Big Pharma and funding ultra-leftist priorities is. I encourage Senators Tommy Tuberville and Katie Britt to oppose these proposals now – before it is too late.

William Bailey is founder and CEO of Minerva Defense in Huntsville, Alabama.

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