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Opinion | Preserving Alabama’s pharmacy benefits: A vital lifeline for businesses

Alabama’s legislators have a unique opportunity to champion free market principles in the pharmaceutical sector.

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As the founder of numerous successful companies, I recognize that there is no possibility of success unless you have a well-supported, skilled workforce that you can attract and retain. Providing my employees with comprehensive health coverage, including pharmacy benefits, is crucial to ensuring this is a reality. Unfortunately, being able to provide for oneself and one’s loved ones has become a privilege, especially as the price of prescription drugs continues to rise. Any extra support I, as an employer, can provide to make that burden easier is a paramount priority.

Alabama businesses need our legislators to actively oppose the misguided policies currently circulating in Washington that are direct products of the Left’s political agenda. If they don’t act now, our state’s workforce will take a direct hit and be forced to deal with the excessive burden of struggling to make ends meet and sacrificing the health and well-being of themselves or their loved ones.

Additionally, half of the citizens in our state currently depend on employer-provided health insurance for coverage. Data has shown that if the market-based incentives provided to pharmacy benefit companies when they generate savings for patients are prohibited through proposed “delinking” legislation, there could be a significant annual rise of $26.6 billion in health care premiums for those on commercial plans. Hardworking Alabamans would see hiked health care costs while Big Pharma would see increased drug profits of nearly $22 billion. 

I know that other employers across Alabama are growing increasingly concerned as the federal government attempts to push policies that would quash the savings pharmacy benefits companies provide and that we rely on. These companies provide substantial savings, including saving patients and payers on average $1,040 per person per year. 

However, it’s not just about the financial bottom line for businesses; it’s about our ethical responsibility towards our employees. As employers, we have a duty to ensure that our workers have access to the health care they need to lead healthy and productive lives. By safeguarding pharmacy benefits, we not only fulfill this obligation but also foster a more loyal and committed workforce, ultimately benefiting our businesses in the long run.

Furthermore, the potential consequences of undermining pharmacy benefits extend beyond health care costs. They could also have ripple effects throughout the broader economy. When employees are burdened with exorbitant health care expenses, they have less disposable income to spend on other goods and services, dampening consumer demand and slowing economic growth. Protecting pharmacy benefits can help sustain a vibrant consumer market that fuels economic prosperity for all.

The recent congressional moves to exclude measures impacting our pharmacy benefits brought a sigh of relief. Nevertheless, the ongoing pressure from Big Pharma and the Left to push these misguided proposals persists. It’s imperative to confront the root cause of the issue: Big Pharma’s monopolistic practices, which foster skyrocketing prices.

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Alabama’s legislators have a unique opportunity to champion free market principles in the pharmaceutical sector. This is not just for the sake of businesses, small and large, but also for the well-being of our hardworking employees. Increasing government regulation is rarely the answer, and this matter is no exception. By opposing policies that provide the government free reign in yet another sector and protecting our pharmacy benefits, we are not just advocating for businesses but for the principles that drive our economy and ensure the best interests of citizens’ constituents are served.

Ronnie Kearns is the CEO of The Kearns Group, based in Andalusia, Alabama.

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