Update
The Senate, 23-16, passed to the House- its bill which authorizes so-called “step therapy” for prescription drugs for the KanCare subsidized health care program for the poor.

The measure will allow private KanCare administrators who run the program for the state to require doctors to prescribe lower-cost drugs initially and “step-up” to more expensive drugs if the cheaper versions don’t work well.

House of Representatives:
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Final vote is today

This bill could be very damaging to many of us.   

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The Senate, after more than two hours of debate, forwarded to a final action vote Wednesday a bill that would establish so-called “step therapy” for Medicaid (KanCare) recipients in Kansas starting July 1.

The step therapy is a procedure in which doctors are told to use the cheapest-generally generic-drugs to treat patients to see if they work before they will be allowed to prescribe more expensive drugs that are generally still under their manufacturer’s patent protections.

Sen. Jim Denning, R-Overland Park, who carried the bill, said that the state might save as much as $11 million a year on Medicaid costs by requiring that efficacy test before allowing patients to receive more expensive drugs. Denning said most commercial insurance companies and many states use the step procedure to hold down medication costs.

The issue in Kansas peaks with the use of older drugs for many behavioral disorders.

Conservative Republicans in the Senate rejected a series of amendments that would have repealed or weakened the step therapy procedures, citing that it puts the state and its KanCare contractors between patients and their doctors who prescribe what they believe will be the most effective treatments.

Sen. Vicki Schmidt, R-Topeka, a pharmacist, tried to soften the step therapy proposal, by exempting some drugs for specific illnesses from the step therapy procedure and by limiting to 60 days that those economical drugs are used before doctors can get permission to use more expensive but more effective drugs.

Schmidt failed with several amendments, and then scored with a provision to require the KanCare providers to keep track of the cost savings through the step approach. That amendment, pushed also by Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, D-Topeka, as a “transparency” amendment, passed 27-8 on a roll-call vote which was colored by legislators wanting to be on record voting for “transparency” in government.