Little Debbie vs. Independent Pharmacy: 5 Things to Know About a Tennessee Lawsuit that Could Impact How States Take On PBM Reform
Next Wednesday, November 30th, a hearing will take place on a lawsuit you’ve likely never heard of, but which may have lasting implications for independent pharmacies in PBM reform battleground states. Below are 5 things to know about this lawsuit, and why pharmacy owners should remain alert and look out for each other in this new era of PBM reform:
- Enacted patient protection legislation WILL be tested. Central to McKee Foods v. BFP, Inc. is whether Tennessee-based McKee Foods (manufacturers of treats including Little Debbie snacks, Drake’s Cakes and other nuclear-fallout resistant delights) is above a newly-passed state law preventing PBMs from interfering with patients’ right to choose their pharmacy provider. McKee Foods is citing “ERISA preemption” as reason for cutting at least one local pharmacy from its provider network. McKee Foods’ PBM is MedImpact.
- Pharmacy owners must be ready to face the acid test of enforcement. Thrifty MedPlus pharmacy owners Greg and Julie Bohannon in Ooltewah, TN, are the unlikely defendants in McKee Foods v. BFP, Inc. The Bohannons, whose pharmacy is literally located across the street from the McKee Foods plant, was the pharmacy of choice for McKee Foods employees until they were unceremoniously cut from McKee Foods’ provider network in 2019. If Thrifty MedPlus loses in the case, all Tennessee pharmacies will lose vital protections under the new law.
- Corporations seeking to enter the healthcare arena may be the next new threat — but not for the reason you think. When the Bohannons exercised their right under the new law to complain to the State of Tennessee that its exclusion from the network violated the newly-enacted patient choice legislation, they found themselves named a defendant in a suit challenging the Tennessee law. Coincidentally, or maybe not, McKee Foods is constructing its own employee health center and pharmacy directly across the street from Thrifty MedPlus. Since being named in the lawsuit, McKee Foods’ legal team has attempted to bury the Bohannons in paperwork and mounting legal fees.
- Participation in pharmacy organizations matters more than ever. No industry has its members’ backs more than independent pharmacy, which is why active participation in your local pharmacy association, your purchasing group, NCPA and yes, PUTT, matter more than ever. The Tennessee Pharmacists Association has been extremely supportive of the Bohannons and has generously expanded its Pharmacy Practice Preservation Fund (PPPF) donation portal to allow for online contributions to support Thrifty MedPlus. American Pharmacies — the pharmacy purchasing group Thrifty MedPlus belongs to — began working on behalf of the Bohannons earlier this year and has been a strong supporter and advocate to help offset the mounting legal fees the Bohannons are facing as the lawsuit continues.
- The struggle is real, and your contributions will help. With a long track record of “paying it forward”, pharmacy isn’t just the most trusted profession, it’s among the most honorable. At a time when even the manufacturer of fake oatmeal cookies and other “treats” thinks it can take over the pharmacy space for its employees, we must stand together to protect the profession. Please donate to the Bohannon’s legal defense fund — and know your generosity will be repaid in the upholding of laws designed to empower patients and keep the practice of pharmacy alive and well.
To learn more or donate to the legal fund, please click here.