Local pharmacy, lawmaker applaud passage of bill regulating pharmacy benefit managers

Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed a bill into law recently to have the state insurance commissioner license and regulate pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs), which small pharmacy owners have said are driving them out of business.

The Arkansas Pharmacy Benefits Manager Licensure Act, thought to be the first one of its kind in the country, had wide support in both parties in the House and Senate. PBMs have been criticized as “middlemen” between insurance companies and pharmacies, and handle pharmacy claims and reimbursements to pharmacies for medications distributed.

The legislature had attempted to regulate the industry in 2009 and 2015 will little effect, supporters of the new bill said.

“Hopefully this will protect the little pharmacists – the small business pharmacists out there – from the corporate PBMs that are questionable at best,” District 5 Sen. Bryan King said.

On Jan. 1, Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield contracted with CVS Caremark as its PBM. Caremark already served as PBM for Ambetter in the state. Pharmacists around the state soon began getting smaller reimbursements for filling prescriptions, according to other media sources.

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By Rod Harrington