Legislative Update – January 26, 2018

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House Concurrent Resolution (HCR) 34 was sponsored by Representative Danny Bentley and cosponsored by a number of trusted and respected health professionals in the Kentucky House of Representatives. It calls for the expediting of research regarding both the safety and efficacy of marijuana use for medicinal purposes. The House passed HCR 34 on Wednesday and sent it to the Senate. I have read this resolution and am happy to throw my support behind, in my view, the most sensible way of addressing the overwhelming interest Kentuckians have in medical marijuana.

I have heard from many constituents in my district about this issue and have had to share with them that, while I remain open to any FDA-regulated and proven medicinal option, I cannot support legislation that calls for the cultivation of marijuana for personal medical use nor the prescribing of combustible marijuana. The assertion that I am opposed to medical marijuana is not accurate; I am merely asking that marijuana extracts be put through the same rigorous process as any other FDA-approved medication. This resolution is a measured approach to this issue and, if passed, will hopefully result in numerous clinical trials that provide provable evidence to support legislative action. Until such comprehensive studies are presented, medical marijuana, in any form, is not likely to gain real traction in the medical community.

We had a discussion in committee about Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBMs), basically an extension of the Managed Care Organizations (MCOs) which have transformed healthcare in Kentucky for the worse. Local Medicaid pharmacists are being denied payments by these PBMs and MCOs at the same time that they are posting record profits. There is zero transparency and accountability for these conglomerates, and rural medicine is paying the cost, literally and figuratively. Testimony in committee shared that PBMs have been strategically denying payment to local pharmacies, which creates extreme financial insecurity. Meanwhile, they simultaneously send out letters offering to buy out local pharmacies to alleviate a financial burden that they caused in the first place. Those letters, by the way, are paid for with taxpayer dollars. They are robbing communities of money by squeezing out local pharmacies and using taxpayer money to do it. Senate Bill 5, which I cosponsored, will move pharmacy reimbursements away from PBMs and back under the umbrella of Medicaid Services. This will give us the transparency and accountability we currently lack. I support any legislation that holds the hulking PBMs and MCOs accountable for what they are doing to good people in our state.

On Thursday, I was invited to speak at the School Choice Rally in recognition of School Choice Week. I spoke about my support for scholarship tax credits, which would give underprivileged students and those with disabilities opportunities they might not otherwise have. Simply put, parents deserve the right to choose the appropriate education options for their children.

Finally, I was pleased to see Marsy’s Law, sponsored by Senator Westerfield, pass the House Chamber and head to the ballot for your vote in November. This is a very important bill for crime victims, and I urge you to do your research on the positive impact that Marsy’s Law can have in the Commonwealth. I encourage you to vote for this measure in November.

I want to close by offering my sincere condolences to all the friends, families, teachers, and students of Marshall County during this most difficult time. Tragedies like this remind us just how precious life is, so I implore you to cherish your loved ones and all those in your community during this time of grief.