During the 2016 legislative session the Missouri House and Senate worked together to send several important pieces of legislation to the governor’s desk with the goal of improving both access to health care and the quality of care received. This week the governor signed four of the bills approved by the General Assembly into law.
The governor signed HB 2029 to provide Missourians with chronic illnesses with better access to the medications they need. The legislation is designed to prevent redundant “step therapy” so that patients who switch health insurance benefits are not forced to try medications that have already proven to be ineffective before being allowed to use medication that works. With step therapy, a patient will first use the most cost-effective and safest medication and, if it is not effective, will then move to a more costly therapy. Step therapy has been an effective process, but becomes an issue when a patient tries several medications to find one that is effective, but then has to start the process all over again when changing insurance providers. The legislation approved by the General Assembly will require health insurance plans to provide a process to request a step therapy override determination.
Now set to become law, SB 875 will proactively update Missouri’s pharmaceutical laws to provide citizens with better access to effective medications. The goal of the bill is to give Missourians more affordable access to interchangeable biological products, which are similar in nature to the generic versions of traditional medications. The products are used in the treatment of chronic conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and various forms of cancer. Missouri law currently allows for the safe substitution of generic medications, but the law does not allow for the substitution of biological drug products. The new law will simply allow for the safe substitution of interchangeable biosimilar medications.
Also set to become law with the governor’s signature is HB 1534, which will extend Missouri’s tax on medical providers that is responsible for billions of dollars in funding for the state’s Medicaid program. The bill will extend the taxes on providers such as hospitals, nursing homes and ambulances for an additional two years. The reauthorization will generate more than $2 billion in funding each year for Missouri’s system of Medicaid.
The governor also signed SB 579 to update the process hospitals use to report healthcare associated infections. The bill will require hospitals to use the federal National Healthcare Safety Network, rather than a separate, state-run system.