Commitment 2018: Health care

January 23, 2018

Commitment 2018: Health care

Article originally featured on WPBF.

WPBF 25 News is kicking off Commitment 2018. It’s our stations promise to keep you informed leading up to the November election. Each month our team of journalists will be highlighting a different topic Florida voters care about deeply. We begin with the very important topic of healthcare.

On our WPBF 25 News Facebook we asked you at home, What healthcare issue do you want given more coverage in our newscast?

Gwitnette posted, “My biggest concern is prescription drugs. Right now the ACA is no longer affordable. If you have a low premium, the deductible is too high and the prescription drugs are through the roof.”

It’s clear that pricey prescription drugs are a big concern. I wanted to see if our legislature is working to bring down those costs. Turns out that they are. It’s called the “Bait and Switch Bill”. Politicians are talking about it right now in Tallahassee.

If made law, once you purchase your insurance, the company can’t change what drugs it covers during the policy term.

Patients have reported that some insurers increase the price of their medicine hundreds of dollars, switch medications entirely, even dropping them after patients purchased the policy, hence the nickname the “Bait and Switch Bill.” For epilepsy patients, the stress of dealing with a bait and switch can make their health even worse, said Lauren Torres with Epilepsy Foundation of Florida.

“Stress is a trigger. And so when they get in situations when they know their medication is in jeopardy that could actually trigger seizures to start; they could have multiple seizures from that. And our goal is to prevent and reduce the amount of seizures that they have. So, just knowing they can’t get their medication they start feeling uneasy weeks before,” said Torres.

Torres says the two big culprits of this bait and switch tactic are the insurance companies and the pharmacy benefit managers, or PBMs. We reached out to the three largest health insurers in Florida, including Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida, Humana and United Healthcare Group. Only United responded and cast blame on the drug companies writing in part that “This bill fails to address the root cause of the problem of high drug costs – the unsustainable price increases drug companies try to get away with every year.”

We also contacted Express Scripts and CVS Caremark, two of the largest prescription providers in the country. They’re also against the bill. Their representative writing in part that “The bill would prohibit health plans from upgrading prescription drug lists even when safer, more affordable alternatives come to market.”

Our Commitment 2018 coverage on healthcare continues. Later in the month we’re diving into the debate about generators in our nursing homes after senior citizens died when their air conditioning went out during hurricane Irma.

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