Miller: New year brings a couple new laws in Minnesota

The 2020 legislative session begins on Feb. 11, and activity is already starting to pick up. As we prepare for the upcoming session, I wanted to provide an overview of some new laws that officially went into effect with the start of the new year.

Making prescription drugs more affordable

Pharmacy benefit managers, or PBMs, basically act as middlemen in the pharmaceutical supply chain. They help the health plans manage prescription drug benefits and are very influential in determining the cost of, and access to, those prescription drugs.

Last session, Senate Republicans led an effort to apply new transparency rules to these pharmacy middlemen:

PMBs must act in good faith and notify health plans of conflicts of interest.

PBMs must disclose rebates and other financial information.

PBMs must disclose any pharmacy ownership interests they have, and are not allowed to offer incentives or impose penalties that could direct patients to pharmacies they own.

Pharmacies cannot dispense a drug to the consumer if there is a less expensive option.

PBMs must disclose out-of-pocket cost differences between preferred network pharmacies and regular, in-network pharmacies.

Pharmacies must inform customers if they can save money by paying cash for their drugs rather than involving insurance.

As of Jan. 1, PBMs must also be licensed and registered with the state of Minnesota so the state can certify they are adhering to the new rules. PBMs that operate without a license could have a $5,000 per day fine levied against them, while failure to comply with transparency requirements could result in civil penalties.

In 2019, we also passed a bipartisan bill directing the Board of Pharmacy to provide information that will help Minnesotans save money on their prescription drugs. You can find that resource at this link:

https://mn.gov/boards/pharmacy/public/savingonprescriptiondrugs.jsp.

Combating opioid crisis

Last session, the Minnesota Legislature approved a landmark new bill to combat the opioid crisis that has taken hold of so many communities and families. The bipartisan bill, which was the result of comprehensive stakeholder negotiations and compromise, funds a number of innovative treatment and social service programs, public awareness efforts, and applies stronger rules to prescriptions and refills.

While most of the bill officially became law last July, one of the rules related to prescription drug prescribers took effect on Jan. 1. The new rule requires anyone who prescribes controlled substances to take at least two hours of continuing education training on the best practices for prescribing opioids and other drugs in order to renew their licenses.

Contact information

As always, if you have any questions, ideas, or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact me any time. Your feedback is extremely important to me and I encourage you to share your input. You can send me an email at sen.jeremy.miller@senate.mn or call my Capitol office at 651-296-5649. Also, you can visit my Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/SenatorJeremyMiller/.

State Sen. Jeremy Miller (R-Winona) serves Senate District 28, which includes Fillmore, Houston and Winona counties.