There was some movement of this bill in the House today. It was added to a crowded schedule of bills on the HHS Finance Committee Calendar, together with an amendment and a statement from PHARMA, the industry lobbying group. The Amendment would have added the tax that was removed in an earlier version of the bill plus added an additional tax plus a registration fee increase. The Senate version of the bill is ready to be heard on the Senate floor has the same structure. The bill was deferred at the last minute for another day.
We continue to oppose this tax which will increase the cost of a drug used by sick and injured people to pay for abuse of the drugs by others. Ultimately taxpayers will also pay as they are covering a huge share of increased medical costs now. We also think that a determination of culpability (as both Senate and House authors have passionately argued is their motive) is best determined by a court of law, not by a tax.
There have been some further developments on the "Opioid Stewardship" bill in the Minnesota House and Senate. The bills upon introduction both included taxes on opioid drugs. Both the House and Senate versions were heard in Committee again and amended on Thursday. On Friday, the Governor's supplemental budget proposal also included an Opioid Stewardship fund and spending.
In the House, an amendment was submitted by the author, Rep. Baker that removes the tax and funds the program from the general fund. There is also some legislative oversight added. Those are the positive developments. The grant program is still there, but there is somewhat tighter reporting on spending and outcomes of the grant recipients. And
then there is this:
Public Television and MPR get a big grant to report on stuff they are already reporting on!
Here's a link to the whole DE4 Amendment:
Rep. Baker still clearly wants to punish the drug companies but could not overcome opposition to the taxing mechanism from his own party. He said:
“I have to swallow a lot of pride on this one, and I have to make sure we get the work done,” he said. “I cannot leave this House this year without doing significant work. I will never give up. I’m going after the drug manufacturers. I will introduce this every year, I’ll do it a couple different times, I’ll find different ways. I’ll look at licensing, I’ll look at whatever we have to do.”
The bill is headed next to the Civil Law and Data Practices committee.
The Senate Health and Human Services Finance Committee chaired by Senator Michele Benson heard SF 730 Thursday afternoon authored by Senator Julie Rosen. There was emotional testimony by family members of opioid addicts. The only lobbyists who testified against the bill were representatives from the Minnesota Chamber and Medical Alley, who primarily opposed the tax. The MN chapter of the AMA testified against including language that directs doctors on the prescribing of opioids. There is a provision in the bill that limits prescriptions to only 4 days of the dosage, with the idea that more than that could cause people to get hooked. Even the testifier from the Board of Pharmacy seemed to think that a week at least is what studies have shown, although some individuals are more susceptible to opioid addiction than others.
In the Senate, the author's amendment still contains the tax on each pill sold in MN, and there is also a registration fee that amounts to being a tax on selling opioids. This is in addition to the other fees drug manufacturers must pay to sell their products in Minnesota.
Senate author's amendment:
The Citizens Council on Health Freedom has come out against this bill, on multiple grounds, the tax (in the Senate), the spending (in the House), the additional prescription monitoring, and the rules on how much doctors can prescribe.
The bill is headed next to the Finance Committee.
Governor Dayton appears to agree with the Senate bill, in wanting to punish drug companies for opioid abuse by instituting new taxes. He has some additional areas he would like money spent, like in corrections facilities. (See PDF of governor's supplemental spending)