Dr. Joe Thompson reviews new health, school laws

by Roby Brock (roby@talkbusiness.net) 352 views 

Dr. Joe Thompson, president and CEO of the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement, said a variety of new state laws that went into effect last week are geared towards school children and the pharmacy industry.

Thompson, also a former Arkansas Surgeon General, said that many of these new laws are aimed at overarching public policy objectives. He was a guest on this week’s Talk Business & Politics.

Among the laws he discussed:

Act 641, which increases recess time in elementary school for unstructured activity to a minimum of 40 minutes per day.

“I think we have swung too far to where we’re trying to test kids and teach kids all day long. And elementary school kids have energy that they have to burn off. So this reintroduces required 40 minutes of unstructured recess time each day for our younger students to be able to balance not only the learning that goes on but also their growth, development and physical activity.”

Act 506, which creates a farm-to-school coordinator position within the Arkansas Department of Agriculture.

“We’ve had growth in farmers’ markets and local produce across the state. Most communities each weekend now have a source for locally-sourced foods. And this is an opportunity to actually have those local producers be able to gain access to schools and supply schools. It’s an economic development opportunity for the local grower. It’s an opportunity for the school nutrition and cafeteria workers.”

Act 676, which requires public and private schools to report their numbers of exemptions from vaccination requirements.

“Nationwide, we are having a measles epidemic, a resurgence of what was at one point the CDC declared an eradicated disease. Parents are getting exemptions sometimes inappropriately or philosophically not wanting to have their child immunized and schools now are required to report what proportion of their student body have those exemptions, so that parents who do have their child vaccinated or for a parent who may have an immunocompromised child, they know that the risk is there in the school.”

Act 651, which authorizes pharmacists to initiate therapy and dispense tobacco cessation products pursuant to a statewide protocol.

“Tobacco continues to be the number one threat and killer in Arkansas and when somebody decides they want to quit, we need to make available to them at that point in time opportunities to take the action and to cease using tobacco. I think this is a good move and it will open up the access points across the state for individuals who do smoke or use tobacco to be able to quit more easily.”

Act 994, which makes various changes to the regulation of pharmacy benefits managers (PBMs), including redefining “maximum allowable cost list,” or the listing of maximum payments a PBM will make to a pharmacy or pharmacist for drugs; prohibiting spread pricing, in which a PBM keeps a portion of the amount received from a health plan for a drug instead of providing the full payment to the pharmacy or pharmacist; and adding reporting requirements.

“We had a special session you may remember in January to deal with what was perceived to be spread pricing where the PBMs would give their pharmacy if they owned it a better price than the independent pharmacy. This law it goes into effect this month goes one step farther and opens up the public reporting of rebates and discounts so that people can see who’s getting the rebate and where the money’s flowing.”

You can watch Thompson’s full video below.

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