During last year’s congressional debate over ObamaCare, many Republican state legislators in Georgia voiced strong opposition to this so-called “reform” law. Their concerns ranged from the questionable constitutionality of the law, to its cost, and to the destructive manner in which the law would affect the doctor-patient relationship.
How soon they forget.
Here we are, barely a year later, and Georgia Republicans are pushing to enact a prescription drug monitoring database bill, with support from the Obama Administration. This legislation would have much the same effect on Georgia citizens as the federal legislation – it is of questionable constitutionality, it is costly, and it undercuts the doctor-patient relationship.
Prescription-drug database advocates, however, justify their support for this Big Government proposal because Georgia is the only state in the southeast that has not yet instituted such a database. They also are clamoring to enact the legislation because the federal government has promised to “give” Georgia money to start up the program.
Georgia Republicans, however, should look south, where new Florida Gov. Rick Scott is taking steps to deny funding for his state’s drug database (passed just last year by the legislature). Scott cites privacy concerns and the likelihood that taxpayers eventually would be stuck with the cost of running the program, which would be far more than the initial grant money from Uncle Sam.
Georgia Sen. Buddy Carter’s version of the prescription drug monitoring program, SB 36, has already cleared the Senate by a vote for 49 to 6, and is currently awaiting action by the House, where privacy advocates have managed to delay advancement of prescription drug monitoring bills. A recent report from the Chattanooga Times Free Press notes that HB 184, sponsored by Rep. Tom Weldon (R-Ringgold), has been re-written to exclude anti-anxiety and weight-loss drugs, as well as steroids from the list of prescription drugs that would have to be reported to the database. Supporters of the more expansive Senate bill complain that federal funding to run the database would not be available if these medications were exempted.
This dispute illustrates clearly that the real reason many Georgia officials and legislators are pressing for creation of the prescription drug database is, in a word — Money.
Moreover, while we are told there are safeguards being put in place to ensure patient privacy, once such a database is implemented, federal agencies as well as various agencies here in Georgia and in other states all would be permitted to access the data (always for the “correct” reasons, of course). And, virtually every Georgian having a prescription filled for pain medication would find themselves treated like a criminal, in that such information would be reported to law enforcement. All this simply to make it easier for the state to catch the relatively few people who abuse prescription drugs.
If the Georgia General Assembly passes a prescription drug monitoring bill, Gov. Nathan Deal should follow in the footsteps of his Florida colleague, and veto the legislation; even it means losing a few pieces of federal silver.
- by Bob Barr, The Barr Code