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Business, doctor groups compromise on work-comp drug bill

After business groups and the Florida Medical Association hammered out a compromise on a controversial workers' compensation issue, the drug-dispensing bill  swept through a House committee today on its way to the floor.

Rep. Matt Hudson said his rewritten HB 511 would allow doctors who make extra money dispensing prescription drugs to patients on workers' compensation to continue doing so. But the fees for dispensing will be set at a rate that brings relief to businesses that pay premiums, he said.

In the compromise, doctors' fees will be limited to a price that is about $4 more than the so-called "average wholesale price" in the pharmacy industry. In return, the insurance carriers will have to allow patients to use dispensing physicians if they wish, rather than be forced to use a pharmacy network.

Hudson cited a letter from Florida Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty, promising to reduce premiums 2.5 percent immediately on passage of the legislation.

"That's $62 million in savings that go back to Florida businesses," said Hudson, R-Naples. "...We're doing what's right for the economy."

Some members of the Health & Human Services Committee questioned whether the savings would be that great and said they wanted to see the math before the matter reaches the House floor.
A companion bill is pending in the Senate.

The bill's main foe is Automated Health Care Solutions, a South Florida company that sells software used by physicians who sell repackaged drugs to patients. AHCS has donated millions of dollars to political committees, mainly Republicans, since the issue heated up.

Workers' comp consultant Joe Paduda hailed the rewrite of the bill in a note to Health News Florida this morning: "It is a reasonable compromise that allows physicians to continue dispensing while protecting employers and taxpayers from gross overcharges for drugs priced far above retail pharmacy pricing.

"Physicians who believe dispensing improves patient care can continue to do so," he wrote, "while payers are no longer forced to pay inflated costs for repackaged drugs."

For more information on the issue, see this article.

--Health News Florida is an independent online publication dedicated to journalism in the public interest. Editor Carol Gentry can be reached at 727-410-3266 or by e-mail.