Wisconsin Assembly Approves Prescription Drug, Health Insurance Proposals

The state Assembly voted Tuesday to approve several health care proposals, including a plan aimed at lowering prescription drug costs in Wisconsin. 

Under the bill, pharmacy benefit managers, who negotiate prices with drug manufacturers on behalf of insurers, would have to meet new requirements, including registering with the state and submitting annual reports on rebates they receive from drugmakers and if those savings are passed on to customers. 

The bipartisan proposal would also bar pharmacy benefit managers from blocking pharmacists from letting patients know about cheaper alternatives to their prescription medications.

A similar bill passed the Assembly last session, but was never taken up by the Senate before it adjourned earlier than expected because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Rep. Michael Schraa, R-Oshkosh, one of the bill’s sponsors, has highlighted his family’s struggle with prescription drug costs as he’s fought for the proposal. Ahead of the vote, he said approving the bill’s proposed changes should help health care consumers across the state. 

 “(The) end result of that happening, I believe, is better patient outcomes or … lower prescription drug costs,” he said.

The bill passed the Assembly 94-0. It passed the Senate last month on a vote of 31-1. It now moves to Gov. Tony Evers’ desk for his signature. 

Another plan approved unanimously on Tuesday would extend some consumer protections in the federal Affordable Care Act (ACA), including a prohibition on insurers denying coverage because of pre-existing conditions, into state law. The bill would also prohibit insurers from putting lifetime or annual limits on benefits and bar some health plans from varying premium rates on factors other than age, tobacco use, area in the state, and whether the plan covers an individual or a family.

Rep. Gae Magnafici, R-Dresser, one of the bill’s sponsors, frames the proposal as a safeguard in case the federal law is repealed or struck down by courts. The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments on the ACA in November.

“I look forward to working with Governor Evers and the entire legislature, Republican and Democrat alike, to ensure that no resident of this great state is denied access to health insurance due to a preexisting condition,” she said in a prepared statement.

The bill has yet to be voted on in a Senate committee. 

Other measures approved Tuesday are direct responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. One bill would allow dentists to administer COVID-19 and flu vaccines, if certain conditions are met. Under the bill, dentists would be required to complete a 12-hour course and training on vaccine storage, protocols, administration technique, emergency procedures and record keeping. They would also be required to update the Wisconsin Immunization Registry within seven days of administering a COVID-19 or flu vaccine.

This is all about getting more hands on deck, getting more providers out there where they’re needed,” said Rep. Clint Moses, R-Menomonie, ahead of the vote. “This pandemic has proved very challenging throughout the state, especially where I represent, up in the rural part of Wisconsin.”

The bill now goes to Evers for his signature.

Another approved bill would allow some out-of-state health care providers to practice in Wisconsin during the pandemic. It has yet to be voted on in a Senate committee.