Workers compensation prescription issue not in Florida budget deal

May 3, 2011

The following article was published in the Palm Beach Post on May 3, 2011:

Workers Compensation Prescription Issue not in Florida Budget Deal

By Jim Saunders

A budget deal reached Tuesday does not include a controversial proposal to limit how much doctors can charge for dispensing drugs to workers-compensation patients.

Sen. Alan Hays, a Umatilla Republican who spearheaded the proposal, said it did not survive budget negotiations between the House and Senate. Former Gov. Charlie Crist also vetoed such limits last year.

The powerful business group Associated Industries of Florida lobbied for the limits, arguing that doctors charge too much for dispensing drugs and that the bill could save $62 million in workers-compensation costs. It contended those savings would be passed on to businesses through lower insurance rates.

“Look at how many jobs can be funded with $62 million,” Hays said Tuesday. “We can flat put some people to work with that.”

But the Florida Medical Association and a large Republican contributor, Miramar-based Automated HealthCare Solutions, opposed the limits. Automated HealthCare Solutions sells technology used in dispensing.

The issue involves drugs that are repackaged in small doses and then dispensed by doctors in their offices. The alternative is for doctors to write prescriptions that workers-compensation patients fill at pharmacies.

“We’re against anybody price-gouging anybody,” FMA General Counsel Jeff Scott said. “But you’ve got to recover compensation for your services.”

Under Hays’ proposal, the costs of doctor-dispensed drugs could not have been higher than costs at pharmacies. The actual amount would have been linked to what is known as the “average wholesale price.”

Supporters of such dispensing say it is a convenience to injured patients and can help increase compliance in taking medications. But dispensing also is an additional source of revenue for doctors’ offices — at a time when Scott said physicians are getting squeezed by higher costs.

Hays included the proposed limits in the Senate version of what is known as a budget “conforming” bill. The House did not include the limits in its version of the bill, making them an issue in the final budget negotiations.

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