Congress strips out PBM reform at final hour, teeters toward shutdown with funding deadline

NCPA March 20, 2024

This week, Congress agreed to fund the government for the rest of fiscal year 2024, mere days before a looming government shutdown, with votes looking to happen this weekend. This agreement would fund nearly 70 percent of the government including the Departments of Defense, Homeland Security, Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education. NCPA is sad to share that PBM reform is not included in the final funding agreement, having been stripped out at the last moment. It was instead decided that a “skinny” health care package would replace the robust legislative package that committees had agreed upon late last week, which included several major NCPA legislative priority policies. The committees had finalized their package after Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Ranking Member Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) held a press conference with pharmacy leaders, pharmacists and patients — including NCPA CEO Douglas Hoey, pharmacy owner and former NCPA president Michele Belcher, and pharmacy owner Jack Holt — to discuss the urgent need for Congress to finalize bipartisan pharmacy benefit manager (PBM) reforms. Later that day Sens. Wyden and Crapo issued a letter to Finance Committee members reaffirming their commitment to enacting meaningful PBM reforms during this Congress. Additionally, last Friday, 21 Senators and 51 Representatives sent letters to their respective leadership calling for immediate action on PBM reform. The calls, led by Sens. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and James Lankford (R-Okla.) in the Senate and Reps. Buddy Carter (R-Ga.) and Debbi Dingell (D-Mich.) in the House, highlighted the bipartisan support PBM reform has received in both chambers and the urgent need to act to preserve patient access to medications and pharmacies. While PBM reform has been stripped out this time, it made it to final negotiations a promising outlook and even more reason to fight for final passage. NCPA will continue to work with policy leaders to get PBM reform passed this year.