Lawmakers continue to struggle with debate over meth vs. medical costs

02/08/2011 07:39 PM

The deadliness of makeshift meth labs is enough reason for one Republican Senator to vote for the bill to require prescriptions for cold medicines that contain pseudoephedrine — a key ingredient of the destructive drug, methamphetamine.

“It’s a tough decision to make,” Sen. Ken Winters, R-Murray, said on Tuesday’s Pure Politics. “One thing that tends to guide my thinking on this is people are losing their lives — young people are dying — because of their exposure to these labs, makeshift labs I should say.”

Republican leaders who support the bill are struggling o drum up enough support in the 38-member chamber for it to pass on the floor. It narrowly emerged from a committee on Thursday, 6-4.

Some lawmakers — Democrats and Republicans — have expressed concern that the bill will increase health costs on the rest of Kentuckians by forcing them to go to the doctor to get the prescription and pay co-pays for the visit and the medication.

Winters said he was initially concerned that the legislation might be unfair to people who suffer from regular allergies or are prone to colds. But he said there are other medications available that don’t use pseudoephedrine.

A similar bill is facing the same type of questions and resistance in the House.

The author of that bill, Democratic Rep. Linda Belcher of Shepherdsville, said in an interview at the Capitol Tuesday morning said she’s still trying to “educate people on the issue” — both other lawmakers and her constituents. She said it wouldn’t have to force people to make repeated doctor visits.

“When I get my prescription, she will give me several refills so that I don’t have to keep coming back every time,” Belcher said.

“The other concern I heard was that some of the people without insurance say it will cost them $75,” she added. “Most people agreed with the bill if we could help them find a way to deal with the cost.”

The fate of the bills is now uncertain and has dominated much of the discussion in Frankfort over the last six days of the session.

Journalists Ronnie Ellis, Frankfort bureau chief for CNHI News Service, and Amanda Van Benschoten, political reporter for the Kentucky Enquirer, offered their take on the ongoing debate and what it means for Kentucky on Tuesday’s Pure Politics.

On a related note, one Republican lawmaker filed a bill late Tuesday that he billed as a compromise proposal.

Rep. David Floyd, a Bardstown Republican, introduced House Bill 376 that would bump cold and allergy medications containing pseudoephedrine into a middle class of drugs, known as Legacy medications. The drugs could be sold at the discretion of a pharmacist or with a prescription from a medical practitioner but wouldn’t classify them as controlled substances that require prescriptions from doctors.

- Ryan Alessi


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