Delaware opioid legislation is ill-conceived ‘tax grab’

So, the General Assembly has passed a tax on opioid manufacturers and the legislation has been sent to Gov. Carney to await his decision on the fate of this initiative.

This law is nothing short of a blatant tax grab. Supporters argue that the tax imposed is minuscule in that it assesses only 1 cent per morphine milligram equivalent yet tout that it is expected to yield some $8 million over three years. For what purpose?

The bill’s sponsors suggest a vague plan to fund unspecified services with no real budget or accountability. Rep. David Bentz has revealed the true motivation behind this legislation by stating that the bill will provide “accountability” for pharmaceutical companies who manufacture opioids – a product that is already licensed and approved by various government entities.

The dispensing of opioids (narcotics) in Delaware is illegal but there is an exception. A pharmacist is permitted to dispense an opioid to a patient upon receiving a prescription order from a licensed physician who has issued said prescription in accordance with the performance of the physician’s duty in treating a medically diagnosed condition. In other words, the gatekeeper for dispensing opioids is the physician – not the opioid manufacturer. Oversight of this process is already provided through the State Board of Medical Practice and the Office of the Attorney General.

Furthermore, who is going to pay this tax? The state of New York tried to deny the right of the opioid manufacturers to pass this cost on to the patient/consumer and that approach was thwarted by the courts. So this proposed tax will be embedded in the retail cost of these drugs. I don’t have access to good numbers but I suspect that the largest entity that provides health insurance to the citizens of Delaware is the state of Delaware by insuring its employees, their families, its retirees and the Medicaid program.

Assume conservatively that the state funds 30% of health care costs under these insurance programs. That means that the state will be taxing itself to the tune of $2.4 million over the next three years. We are told that the state is already burdened with escalating health care costs and yet the legislature seeks to increase those pressures on the state’s budget.

This approach to the “opioid crisis” is simply the Social Mob attacking big business. I fail to see how levying a tax on opioid manufacturers is going to change the behavior of physicians in the dispensing of medications.

Gov. Carney – I respectfully ask that you recognize that this is a poorly conceived piece of legislation that unfairly burdens the law-abiding, tax-paying citizens of this state who need their prescriptions to treat bona fide medical conditions.

Robert Gouge is a resident of Middletown.

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