The Behn Report

Jerry Behn (R), Boone

~by Sen Jerry Behn

April 12, 2019

This week was a whirlwind of activity, both figuratively, and literally. Wind advisories across the state kept drivers on their toes.

After last’s week legislative deadline for bills, Week 13 included mostly floor debate. We remain focused on our budget work while we continue to pass bills out of the Senate.

While we have no agreement with the House or the governor yet on what the budget will look like for the next fiscal year, we continue to move forward with our budget bills. We do this because we believe we have a budget that is responsible and sustainable.
The budget priorities this session include reliable and sustainable funding for K-12 education, health care, and public safety, as well as continuing to find ways we can provide tax relief for Iowa taxpayers. Our budget accomplishes these goals while providing the state with some cushion in the event of slower economic growth than predicted.

We have advocated for a conservative, pro-growth agenda during the last few years. Implementing those policies requires a conservative budget and conservative legislation to move our state forward. This year alone we have passed bills to prevent bad actors from maliciously attacking our ag industry, strengthen our Second Amendment rights in Iowa, and improve public accountability over judicial nominating commissions.

We have passed a suite of welfare reforms to bring able-bodied people into the workforce, reduce fraud, ensure benefits are for Iowa resident and US citizens, and prevent deadbeat parents from receiving welfare. We also passed a bill to ensure the free speech rights of students at Iowa public universities are protected and legislation to protect Iowa employers and workers.

Some of these bills have been signed into law, some still await passage in the House, while others may not be considered until next session. We will continue to advocate for our agenda throughout these last few weeks

Flood relief continues to be a major topic of conversation in the Iowa Legislature. Many parts of southwest Iowa remain under water and a full accounting of the damage may be weeks or months away.

Senate Republicans are in regular contact with the governor to identify potential legislation to expedite recovery efforts and a plan is expected soon. However, the single most important aspect of flood relief is for Democrats in the U.S. Senate to stop opposing flood relief and approve the nearly $1.6 billion in aid requested by Governor Reynolds and approved by the president. These flood relief efforts will be focused not on growing government, but getting aid directly to those people in need.

Increasing transparency in prescription medicine – The Iowa Senate unanimously advanced a bill this week aimed at shining the light on costs that help determine drug pricing. Senate File 563 deals with pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs). PBMs are third-party companies who act as prescription drug middlemen to develop plans for state government employees, commercial health entities, and for employers who self-insure.

Nearly 70 percent of all prescriptions filled are by a PBM. Initially, the goal of the PBMs was to help consumers save money on their prescription medicine as well as share their expertise in complex formulary development.

As the cost of prescription medicine rises, there is momentum in Iowa, other states, and at the federal level to increase the transparency requirements for the PBMs in their operations. Iowa Senator Charles Grassley is taking up this issue in the U.S. Senate Finance Committee. This week the Iowa Senate followed suit.

The bill, which passed on a 49-0 vote, will make the rates negotiated more transparent, and shines more light on the entities receiving those rebates. PBMs will now be required to yearly report aggregate dollars received, all administrative fees, and the aggregate dollar amounts of rebates retained by the PBM and not passed through to the health carrier.

Though this bill does not directly impact prescription medicine prices, the transparency can help identify future steps to help rein in these rising costs.

As always, I want to hear from you. My Senate number is 515-281-3371 and my home number is 515-432-7327 or write me at: State Capitol, Des Moines, IA 50319 or at my home address: 1313 Quill Avenue, Boone, IA 50036 or email me at jerry.behn [at] legis [dot] iowa [dot] gov.

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