Georgia Governor Vetoes Bill to Equalize Pharmacy Reimbursement Rates

Georgia Governor Brian Kemp vetoed Senate Bill 198, which aimed to equalize reimbursement rates for independent and chain pharmacies. The veto has sparked concerns about the potential closure of independent pharmacies in rural and underserved communities.

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Aqsa Younas Rana
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Georgia Governor Vetoes Bill to Equalize Pharmacy Reimbursement Rates

Georgia Governor Vetoes Bill to Equalize Pharmacy Reimbursement Rates

Georgia Governor Brian Kemp (R) has vetoed Senate Bill 198, which aimed to equalize reimbursement rates for independent pharmacies and chain pharmacies. The bill, passed with nearly unanimous support from the state legislature, sought to address the competitive disadvantage faced by independent pharmacies due to lowreimbursement ratesfrom the State Health Benefit Plan (SHBP) covering teachers and state employees.

Why this matters: The fate of independent pharmacies has significant implications for rural and underserved communities, where they often serve as vital healthcare providers. If these pharmacies are forced to close due to unsustainable reimbursement rates, it could exacerbate existing healthcare disparities and limit access to essential medical services.

In his veto message, Governor Kemp cited fiscal concerns as the primary reason for rejecting the measure. The estimated annual cost of implementing Senate Bill 198 ranged from $11 million to $45 million, an expense not funded by the General Assembly in the state budget. As an alternative, the Governor pointed to House Bill 916, which includes funding for a one-time $3 increase in the dispensing fee and allocates existing funds tostudyindependent pharmacy reimbursement by the SHBP.

The National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA) expressed shock and disappointment at Governor Kemp's decision. In a statement, the organization emphasized that the bill's focus on fairness for independent pharmacies "should not have been a tough call." Independent pharmacy owners in Georgia have been critical of the veto, asserting that the current reimbursement rates leave them struggling to stay afloat and at a competitive disadvantage compared to pharmacy chains.

The veto of Senate Bill 198 has sparked concerns about the potential closure of independent pharmacies across Georgia due to unsustainable reimbursement rates. These pharmacies, often serving as vital healthcare providers in rural and underserved communities, face an uncertain future without the equalized reimbursement that the bill sought to establish.

Governor Kemp's decision to veto Senate Bill 198 has left independent pharmacies in Georgia grappling with the challenges posed by low reimbursement rates. As the state moves forward with the alternative measures outlined in House Bill 916, the fate of these community pharmacies hangs in the balance, with the potential for closures looming on the horizon.