March 1, 2022
CC: House Health and Government Operations Committee
Re: Supporting HB 973 – Pharmacy Services Administrative Organizations and Pharmacy Benefits Managers
Dear Chair Pendergrass and Committee:
EPIC Pharmacy Network (EPN), a Pharmacy Services Administrative Organization (PSAO) that has served Maryland independent pharmacies for 30 years, would like to express its support for HB 973.
HB 973 corrects undue logistical burdens imposed by the passage of HB 978 in 2020 on all PSAOs operating in Maryland. EPN is greatly concerned about the burden of HB 978 on our ability to continue operating in Maryland — and without the essential services that we provide to 134 Maryland independent pharmacies, many would not be able to remain open to serve the patients in their communities. We are grateful to the sponsors of HB 978 for introducing HB 973, which would correct some of the most pressing logistical burdens unintentionally caused by the 2020 bill.
Independent pharmacies have worked harder than ever to support Maryland communities through the COVID-19 pandemic. They have administered tests, vaccines, and boosters and provided patients sound medical advice during an otherwise uncertain time. In addition to these pandemic stresses, they face complex administrative pressures that make running a business a challenge. For example, pharmacies must sign and manage many different contracts just to procure medications for their patients and guarantee that insurers will cover patient prescriptions.
For large chain pharmacies, dealing with this red tape is no problem. They have a large, specialized staff that negotiates directly with PBMs. On the other hand, independent pharmacies struggle to manage these relationships and run their small business at the same time. This is why PSAOs exist, to help alleviate these burdens. EPN takes care of the back-office responsibilities and manages complex administrative and operational tasks on their behalf, such as handling the intricacies of claims, contracts, reimbursements, compliance, and credentialing.
Furthermore, EPN does not influence the price of medications or drug benefits. Regulating us like a PBM not only misaligns with our business model and function but will not bring any greater prescription drug price transparency. Instead, the undue burdens placed on PSAOs by HB 978 threaten our ability to operate.
EPN requests that you support HB 973 to enable EPN to continue providing essential support to independent pharmacies and pharmacies to fulfill their primary function: helping keep Maryland communities healthy.
Brian Hose, PharmD
Chairperson, EPIC Rx Board of Directors
Owner, Sharpsburg Pharmacy, Sharpsburg, MD