Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis

Florida Gov. DeSantis Makes Rare Mistake on Drug Pricing

Ron DeSantis is a great governor. But even the best politicians are still human. They make mistakes just like the rest of us.  
Floirda Gov. Ron DeSantis. By Chris Ingram

Ron DeSantis is a great governor. But even the best politicians are still human. They make mistakes just like the rest of us.  

The regulations Gov. DeSantis enacted last week on pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs), the groups used by insurance companies and employers to negotiate lower prescription drug prices, represent one of his very rare judgement lapses. 

In announcing the new regulations, Gov. DeSantis said, “We are committed to making Florida’s prescription drug market the most transparent and accountable in the nation” and “for too long, PBMs and Big Pharma have made extraordinary windfalls by operating behind closed doors — deciding which prescriptions are covered, where they can be purchased, and how much they cost.” 

Gov. DeSantis is wrong to link PBMs and Big Pharma together. They are complete opposites.  

PBMs negotiate against Big Pharma to save us money. Casey Mulligan, the chief economist for President Trump’s Council of Economic Advisers, made this clear in a July 2022 study. So did Scott Hague, a board member with the Insure the Uninsured Project, in a recent article. He remarked that “small and medium businesses, like the ones I work with, don’t have the scale to negotiate lower prices from pharmaceutical companies that are the biggest drivers of increasing prices, accounting for 65 percent of the net cost of every prescription. But PBMs have the clout to take on the drug manufacturers, squeeze their profit margins, and get a better deal for patients.” 

It’s not a coincidence that Big Pharma is paying millions of dollars for TV, Internet, and radio advertisements against PBMs in its quest to get public officials like DeSantis to regulate them. The major drug companies know how effective PBMs are at lowering drug costs, so they’re doing everything they can to stop them.  

Gov. DeSantis is not the first lawmaker to be fooled by these misleading advertisements that paint PBMs as the problem instead of as part of the solution. While Sens. Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, and others have held the line against Big Pharma’s PBM regulatory crusade, a growing choir of Democrats and Republicans have been duped into buying the talking points found within Big Pharma’s ads. Unfortunately, however, the governor is already starting to feel the political heat from his political opponents more than most.  

For example, in reacting to Gov. DeSantis’ regulations on PBMs, Daniel Henry, chairman of the Duval County Democratic Party, exclaimed, “When it comes to reining in the major pharmaceutical companies, the governor always talks the talk, but he never seems to walk the walk … Gov. DeSantis’ recent signing of legislation to significantly weaken pharmaceutical benefit managers (PBMs) — the only entities with the power to prevent PhRMA from inflating the cost of our drugs — highlights this point well.” 

These arguments are, of course, disingenuous. Gov. DeSantis is not in Big Pharma’s pocket — not by a long shot.  

Floridians must not forget that, in the thick of the COVID pandemic, the governor rejected mandates that would have lined big drug companies’ bottom lines. He did this at a time when few other lawmakers were willing to do so — not even President Trump himself.  

Instead of doubting Gov. DeSantis’ honesty and integrity, Floridians should just acknowledge that their governor, like everyone else, makes mistakes, and this is one of the rare examples. 

Fortunately, Gov. DeSantis has always been one to admit his mistakes and has never been afraid to correct them. Perhaps this will be one of those times. The nearly half of Floridians experiencing healthcare cost-related barriers are counting on it. 

Chris Ingram is a Republican strategist. He is also a former columnist for the Tampa Tribune and adjunct professor for the University of Tampa

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