ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – The state has proposed pharmacies receive a fee for filling prescriptions. The Department of Financial Services said the changes would create protections for consumers and small business owners while increasing supervision over one of the most unregulated sectors of the healthcare industry. Those opposed said it creates unnecessary additional costs.
Zarina Jalal is the supervising pharmacist at Lincoln Pharmacy, which her family owns, and she welcomes the proposed $10.18 fee that would be paid by Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBMs) to pharmacies.
“Using ‘new’ to describe this dispensing fee is not actually accurate. There’s always been a dispensing fee for the services that a pharmacy provides,” said Jalal.
She said the dispensing fee has always been rolled into the prescription drug costs but what’s new is the proposed regulation would set a baseline minimum of $10.18 that would need to be paid by PBM’s.
Pharmacy Benefit Managers are a third-party healthcare entity that manages prescription drug programs and acts as a middleman between healthcare plans and pharmacies.
The measure was introduced when the Department of Financial Services proposed a package of regulations in August that, they said, would be the most comprehensive set of rules in the nation for regulating PBMs.
“For a very long time pharmacies in New York have been, for lack of a better word, oppressed by the Pharmacy Benefit Managers. We’ve seen below cost reimbursements. We’ve seen dispensing fees for the service that we provide along with the prescription we’re dispensing and in some cases it’s no money at all, in some cases it’s $.18 so it’s almost insulting,” said Jalal.
However some are speaking out against the proposed fee. New York State Senator Jake Ashby urged the state to reverse course.
“I am primarily opposed to the $10 fee because right now the unaffordability in the state is extremely high and a measure like this would just make it even more unaffordable for people who are already struggling,” said Ashby.
The proposed regulations that the baseline fee is a part of would also regulate PBA mergers, prohibit abusive contract terms, prohibit deceptive marketing practices and would establish standards so people have access to affordable prescriptions, according to the Department of Financial Services.
“I’m always up for taking a look at a good policy and good regulation and oversight. I think it is key, good oversight is key, but this $10 fee goes beyond the scope of the legislation and the policy that the Hochul administration and DFS is trying to implement,” said Ashby.
Jalal said rising healthcare costs are not due to paying pharmacies appropriately. She says the money goes towards the services pharmacies provide and the overhead costs, like paying rent, prescription vials and insurance premiums, just to name a few. She believes it will save the healthcare system money in the long run.