- Tom Greene is a retired pharmacist and former state senator for District 44 in southeast Iowa.
During my time in the Iowa Legislature, championing legislation improving care for patients all across Iowa was my passion. Every year, we hear of Iowans struggling to get the medical care or medications they desperately need. It is the job of lawmakers to ensure patient care is accessible, affordable, and addresses patient needs.
Unfortunately, a widely known bad practice in the insurance industry that I saw too many times during my decades as a pharmacist continues in Iowa today. Non-medical switching is a practice for insurance companies to cut costs and increase profits, and it happens all too often in our great state. This practice ends patients’ access to their current prescription medication by increasing co-pays or out-of-pocket costs or even ending coverage for the medicine all together.
Insurance companies argue non-medical switching is necessary to reduce costs, but it actually increases costs over the long-term. Patients who find a stabilizing medication that works for them and then are switched off that medication by their insurance company often experience symptoms again, leading to increased doctor and ER visits, lab tests, and even hospitalization, all of which lead to increased health care costs.
Iowans with chronic conditions are especially vulnerable to non-medical switching practices. Staying on the treatment that stabilized your chronic condition may depend entirely on a patient’s ability to pay out of pocket. This doesn’t take into consideration the time a doctor and patient spent formulating a personalized care plan or even the patient’s health.
That’s why it’s called “non-medical” switching. It alters your medical treatment for reasons that have nothing to do with your health or the opinion of your doctor. At the end of the day, non-medical switching is all about insurance companies saving money.
Fortunately, some of my former colleagues are championing efforts to end this predatory practice. Rep. Tom Moore and House Human Resources Committee Chair Ann Meyer demonstrated true leadership this past week when they championed House File 656 out of the full House Human Resources Committee with unanimous bipartisan support. This patient-care-focused legislation would prohibit insurance companies from taking medications off their formulary or increasing a patient’s co-pay if the patient is stable on a currently prescribed medication. Or in short, House File 656 would end non-medical switching in Iowa. This bill has momentum, but there is still work to do.
A similar bill, Senate File 2016, is being considered by the Senate Commerce Committee.
Now is the time to reach out to your representatives and senators. Encourage them to get these patient saving bills down to the governor’s desk. House File 656 and Senate File 2016 are the type of patient-focused legislation I championed while in the Legislature. Insurance company profits should never be prioritized over patient care and well-being.
Tom Greene is a retired pharmacist and former state senator for District 44 in southeast Iowa.