ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – Independent pharmacists from across New York gathered at the steps of the New York State Capitol building to call on Governor Kathy Hochul to sign the Pharmacy Rescue package into law.
“Make no mistake; this is a battle of Wall Street versus Main Street,” Senator Mike Martucci said.
Martucci cosponsored the group of bipartisan bills that hope to “save” independent pharmacies from closure. The package was passed unanimously in June by the New York State Legislature.
“What’s at stake is very simple. It’s the survival of an industry that serves our communities,” Martucci said.
One Albany patient joined the sea of white coats and suits to speak out in support of independent pharmacies.
“It’s part of the fabric that holds us together as a society,” Robert Markovics said.
Markovics lives down the street from Lincoln Pharmacy and frequents the local business often—more as he’s aged. His reasoning behind not switching to a big box store is simple.
“It’s like that thing in Cheers, you want to go where everyone knows your name,” Markovics said.
However, Thomas D’Angelo—President of the Pharmacists Society of the State of New York—said to continue to provide for patients, they need Governor Hochul’s full support.
“If the complete legislation is not enacted with urgency, hundreds of independent pharmacies across the state will be forced to close,” D’Angelo said.
Assemblymember John McDonald said the main focus of the bills is to regulate companies that manage prescription drug benefits called PBM’s—Pharmacy Benefit Managers. He said PBM’s provide a valuable service, but their role in the industry has grown without regulation to follow suit.
“Starting with Medicare Part D in 2006, when government started funding more healthcare, they relied more heavily on the PBM’s,” McDonald said.
The Business Council of New York State disagrees with the passage of the Pharmacy Rescue package and said the issue is “complicated.”
“An analysis of the legislation considered could increase costs to consumers by an average of $2.8 billion a year,” Lev Ginsburg, The Business Council of New York State, said. “Considering the extraordinary financial impacts caused by the pandemic, it would be irresponsible to enact policies that would further drive up the costs of healthcare for those who need it.”
Additionally, Pharmaceutical Care Management Association—the national association representing pharmacy benefit managers—also sent a statement to News10 in response to the rally.
“Accusations that PBMs are forcing store closures are unproductive and not based in fact,” PCMA said. “In New York specifically, the number of independent pharmacies in New York increased 25% from 2011 – 2021.”
However, McDonald said the business model isn’t sustainable. Although PBM’s play an important role, he said the issue is a lack of transparency in their role as middlemen between insurance companies and pharmacies.
“There’s a disparity between who’s getting what when a prescription drug is being paid,” McDonald said. “We as government should know how our dollars are being spent, and ashamedly we don’t know.”