VSEA executive director Steve Howard at a Statehouse press conference
Updated at 11:03 a.m.
The Vermont State Employees' Association denounced a decision by Gov. Phil Scott’s administration that will make it more difficult for its members to access certain prescription drugs.
The governor's administration sent the union a list of nearly 170 medications that, beginning next January, will be excluded from state workers’ health insurance plans. That means current and retired employees will either have to switch to a cheaper alternative, if one exists, or file an appeal to continue receiving their medication.
The list includes a number of common drugs such as Adderall, blood glucose meters and test strips, EstroGel, Prozac, Valium and Xanax.
“They’re putting their desire to save money over the medical needs of retirees and state employees and their families,” said VSEA executive director Steve Howard.
Since the union began publicizing the list of excluded drugs Tuesday morning, Howard claimed that its offices have been “inundated” by calls from members who rely on such prescriptions. Referring to the administration, he added, “I’m not sure they fully understand what kind of pain they’re gonna cause for a large number of Vermonters across the state.”
Instead of using a custom list of preferred drugs, the state is switching to the standard list offered by its pharmacy benefits manager, according to Department of Human Resources deputy commissioner Dan Pouliot. “Most employers throughout the country adopt and use the national formularies that are offered by the pharmacy benefits managers,” he said.
Pouliot said that most of the excluded drugs are “very expensive and also have less expensive generic equivalents.” He emphasized that members will have the option of appealing if they’re denied a prescription they depend upon.
The change will save the state about $600,000 annually, according to the Department of Human Resources. It comes after the Vermont Labor Relations Board ended a stalemate in contract negotiations between the state and the union, ruling last week in the administration’s favor. Under the new contract, VSEA members will also have to pay more for copays and deductibles.
Read the entire list of excluded drugs here:
Correction, April 4, 2018: This story was updated to note that the drugs on the list are “excluded,” meaning patients would have to win an appeal to receive any insurance coverage for the drugs.