OKLAHOMA CITY — Pharmacists and optometrists got what they wanted, or at least partly so, in bills signed Tuesday by Gov. Kevin Stitt.

Senate Bill 100, by Sen. Kim David, R-Porter, is a peace treaty between optometrists and “big box” retailers that allows the latter to slowly incorporate eye care clinics into their stores while maintaining protections for independent optometrists and patients.

Walmart and other larger retailers, along with pressure to resolve the long-standing dispute, brought both sides to the negotiating table this spring.

“Our primary concern as eye doctors is protecting Oklahoma’s very high standards for quality of care and patient safety,” said Dr. Selina McGee, president of the Oklahoma Association of Optometric Physicians. “To preserve those high standards, optometrists need to be operating independently, free of corporate control or interference, and governed by a medical board.”

In the end, there didn’t seem to be any organized opposition to the bill that Stitt signed Tuesday.

Such is not the case with House Bill 2632, by Rep. Jon Echols, R-Oklahoma City, which Stitt signed over the protests of the Oklahoma State Chamber of Commerce and many insurers.

The bill considerably loosens the control of prescription benefit managers, known as PBMs, to exclude pharmacies from their networks. The State Chamber and others warned of near-catastrophic consequences, but Stitt had already vetoed one PBM bill that had passed the Legislature without a dissenting vote and apparently decided not to make it two.

Independent pharmacists and PBM critics say some benefit managers have become too close to pharmacy chains, drug manufacturers and insurance companies and no longer look after the best interests of their clients and patients who depend on prescription benefits.

The chamber said tinkering with the PBMs will increase prescription costs.

“House Bill 2632 was supposed to be a compromise that would keep prescription prices low for employees and allow employers to manage health care costs,” Chamber President Fred Morgan said in a news release. “Unfortunately, what was signed into law today fails on both sides.”

“Now that House Bill 2632 is law in Oklahoma, we can likely expect two things to happen: First, we will see prescription drug costs increase for Oklahoma families. Second, we’ve opened Oklahoma up to avoidable court cases on the legality of House Bill 2632. Similar legislation in other states has been struck down by federal law.”

Recent lawsuits from all sides have met with mixed results. One closely watched case involving Arkansas’ attempt to regulate PBM’s administration of Medicaid Part D in that state is pending before the U.S. Supreme Court.


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Randy Krehbiel

918-581-8365

randy.krehbiel@tulsaworld.com

Twitter: @rkrehbiel

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