Ten medical bills put into one omnibus package received final approval last week
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — House Bill 315, a bill that began as one piece of legislation that allowed people with maintenance prescription eye drops to refill those prescriptions earlier than the normal 30 days, was truly agreed upon last Tuesday.
The final product of HB315, however, was not just that sole bill.
When the eye drop bill, sponsored by Rep. Lyle Rowland, R-Cedarcreek, headed to the Senate, Sen. Jay Wasson, R-Nixa, added nine other bills that “fit really well together and hadn’t gotten any negative testimony,” he said.
This was never Wasson’s intention when HB315 came his way, but he said everything fell together so well and he thinks he was able to create a clean omnibus bill that would benefit the medical associations and patients affected.
“If you’ve been around this building long enough, you know when you put omnibus bills together, you better be ready for controversy,” Wasson said. “One of two things happen: you either put something in it that kills the bill, or people love it so much they add all of these amendments, making it a Christmas tree bill, and it dies.”
This was the second year the “eye drop bill” came through the legislature. Rowland said he picked it up from a representative last year, but that last year they ran out of time before they could get it through. Plus, there was some opposition from the insurance companies who feared the cost implications for decreasing the time frame between prescriptions.
The bill earned support from the insurance companies this year after a three-year sunset was added to it, Rowland said, so in three years the legislature and the companies can take a close look at the cost increase and decide if it is something to continue.
“I think we’re going to find it won’t cost them hardly anything more,” Rowland said. “And really, this bill is just a good thing to do.”
He explains that it’s easy to accidentally lose a few drops in the process of trying to put them in, and for patients who require those drops every day for their glaucoma or other conditions might not always have a steady hand and could be arthritic.
“I was really lucky [with the bill] this year,” Rowland said. “The optometrists and the opthamologists came together and the bill started moving.”
The bill was truly agreed in the House on Tuesday with a 143-4 vote. The four no votes included representatives Kim Gardner, D-St. Louis, Nick Marshall, R-Parkville, Jeff Pogue, R-Salem, and Professional Registration Committee Chair Eric Burlison, R-Springfield.
“Even though the eye drop bill is no big deal, those bills that were added included insurance mandates, and I’ve always been opposed to insurance mandates,” Burlison said. “I don’t think it’s worth going into battle over it, but to be ideologically consistent I couldn’t vote for it.”
House Speaker Tim Jones, R-Eureka, said he thinks putting bills together that all relate to medicine is a lot more efficient than trying to pass 30 to 40 different bills, emphasizing there is not enough time during the session for that.
With the votes for and against the legislation coming from both sides of the aisle, Jones said he thinks the majority of the bills the House passes receive a strong bipartisan vote, but the ones that get the most attention are the “hot topic issues” where there are ideological shifts.
“When we’re working on things like the medical profession, we have people on both sides of the aisle work together,” Jones said. “Nuts and bolts legislation like this that members — Democrats and Republicans — in both chambers put politics aside do what’s right for the profession.”
Wasson said he does not see a reason the governor would not sign this bill. He said the eye drop bill is not contentious and received support, and the rest of the bills are similar, with many being just cleaning up language.
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Ashley Jost is no longer with The Missouri Times. She worked as the executive editor for several months, and a reporter before that.