For Immediate Release
April 27, 2018
HARRISBURG - The Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry today expressed dismay with Gov. Tom Wolf’s veto of S.B. 936, which would have helped fight the state’s devastating prescription drug and opioid epidemic as it relates to injured workers. This legislation would have improved Pennsylvania’s workers’ compensation system by implementing a prescription drug formulary, an approach already standard in nearly every other private and public sector health insurance program.
“Governor Tom Wolf has spoken eloquently about addressing the opioid crisis and twice declared it an official state emergency,” PA Chamber President and CEO Gene Barr said. “But policymakers must also pursue all reasonable and responsible action to fight this tragic situation.”
“The Governor’s veto message is puzzling,” Barr added. “He does not appear to recognize that under S.B. 936 his own Department of Labor & Industry would have selected the formulary. I’m also disturbed that the message insinuates that a prescription drug formulary could encourage opioid use. This flies in the face of overwhelming evidence that drug formularies have helped reduce opioid use and addiction in state workers’ compensation systems across the country.”
Senate Bill 936 was supported by a broad range of stakeholders, including the Hospital & HealthSystem Association of Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania Occupational and Environmental Medical Society, Pennsylvania Pharmacists Association, Concentra (the largest provider of occupational medicine in the country), addiction treatment professionals, other groups representing employers, school districts and municipalities, as well as more than 70 local chambers of commerce.
The Governor’s veto of S.B. 936 is particularly troubling in light of a series of investigative reports from the Philadelphia Inquirer that revealed the truth behind opposition to this bill. The series described allegations involving a workers’ compensation law firm that partnered with a small network of doctors to prescribe their clients exorbitantly priced and unproven compound creams; and then sent these unsuspecting patients to pharmacies that were co-owned by the lawyers and doctors themselves. The Inquirer articles exposed these individuals as the opponents aggressively fighting to defeat S.B. 936.
Prior to vetoing the bill, the Governor announced his intent to issue related Executive Orders that appear to be woefully inadequate. For example, the announcement mentions plans to regulate the cost of “topical opioid compounds,” but appears to ignore whether they actually help patients and could allow pharmacy arrangements like the one described by the Inquirer to continue unchecked. The announcement further mentions possible implementation of opioid prescribing “guidelines,” while failing to explain if these “guidelines” can even be enforced. Executive Orders do not carry the full force of the law; they are inherently temporary solutions and their implementation can be fraught with delays and loopholes. This is simply not an adequate alternative to S.B. 936.
“The prescription drug and opioid crisis in Pennsylvania’s workers’ compensation system is not going away and neither are we,” Barr added. “We look forward to working with the legislature and the governor to implement an approach that will truly protect workers by getting them medications that are safe and effective, and will allow them to return to full health and work in a timely manner.”
The Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry is the state's largest broad-based business association, with its statewide membership comprising businesses of all sizes and across all industry sectors. The PA Chamber is The Statewide Voice of BusinessTM.