Legislature Should Pass Bill to Expand State’s Prescription Drug Purchasing Pool, Health Advocate Says
California lawmakers should pass SB 1315, legislation that would "streamline current state prescription drug purchasing" and reduce costs through an expanded purchasing pool, which would include state organizations and private insurance companies and individuals, Jerry Flanagan, a health care and budget advocate for California Public Interest Research Group, writes in a Sacramento Bee opinion piece (Flanagan, Sacramento Bee, 2/21). The bill, sponsored by Sen. Byron Sher (D-Palo Alto), would expand the state's "central purchasing agency" to include the Departments of Health Services, Mental Health, Corrections, Youth Authority and Developmental Services; CalPERS; the State Teachers' Retirement System; and the California State University system. In addition, the bill would allow "[a]ny business group, hospital, hospital associatio[n] or other private entity" to join the purchasing pool (California Healthline, 1/25). The legislation would save California between $50 million and $100 million in the first two years, according to a state audit. Flanagan writes that 12 states have considered a similar "pioneering concept," while Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine have implemented a multistate purchasing pool. In addition, he points out that Texas began a purchasing pool in June 2001. However, Flanagan writes that a purchasing pool established by the Department of Veterans Affairs, which has negotiated a 55% discount on the average wholesale price of prescription drugs, serves as the "best model" for California. Flanagan concludes that the state "could protect its health consumers and its budget through hard-nosed negotiation with the most profitable industry in the world, helping to slow down runaway health care costs" (Sacramento Bee, 2/21).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.