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House Panel Passes Comp-Drug Pact

Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
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The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

All the players in a long-running drama over drug-dispensing in workers’ compensation agreed to a compromise that will cap the amount doctors can charge for the drugs themselves, but doubles the amount they get paid for giving patients the drug.  

In other action, the Senate passed a bill that would prevent counties from enacting ordinances forcing employers to provide sick leave to their workers, according to The Orlando Sentinel.The bill now goes back to the House, which passed a similar measure earlier.

On the workers' comp issue:

The House Health and Human Services Committee quickly passed the compromise to HB 605 Monday morning after its sponsor, state Rep. Matt Hudson, R-Naples, explained that all the warring parties had signed off. Among them: Business groups, the Florida Medical Association, pharmacy associations and drug repackaging companies, which supply dispensing physicians with products.

While the legislation may not be perfect, Hudson said, it “will help to stabilize rates” that employers pay for workers’ compensation insurance. The bill also prohibits doctors from taking drugs "on consignment" from companies and returning them if they don't sell.

Such a practice interferes with the chain of custody of drugs and could lead to tampering, Hudson said.

State Rep. Katie Edwards, D-Plantation, said she just hoped the compromise will spell an end to the multi-year battle, which had lawmakers trapped in the middle of powerful lobbying groups.

A consultant to businesses that are trying to rein in costs, Joseph Paduda of Health Strategy Associates, said he’s disappointed.

“Some may view this as a victory - and in some ways it is, as it ends dispensers' ability to charge whatever they want for their drugs.  However, in reality the legislation essentially legitimizes an industry that has been stealing from employers and taxpayers for years,” he said. “Now they'll just steal a little less.”

He was referring to a study by that said physician dispensing of repackaged drugs increases medical costs and doesn’t help workers get back to work sooner – if anything, it does the opposite.

Paduda and others who are concerned about rising costs in workers’ compensation had hoped for legislation that would have given dispensing physicians no more than retail pharmacies. Instead, physicians will still get a higher amount for dispensing:  12.5 percent over the average wholesale price and an $8 dispensing fee.

Carol Gentry, founder and special correspondent of Health News Florida, has four decades of experience covering health finance and policy, with an emphasis on consumer education and protection.