Nebraska Legislature

Senators have advanced a bill that guarantees coverage for mental health medication that is deemed medically necessary and another that would create a cash fund to battle opioid addiction.

The following are highlights from the legislative session on July 22.

Coverage for mental health medication

The Legislature voted 42-0 to advance an amended LB1052 to enrollment and review. LB1052, which was introduced by Sen. Anna Wishart of Lincoln, would make sure the Department of Health and Human Services, a managed care organization or a pharmacy benefit manager couldn’t deny coverage of an antidepressant, antipsychotic or anticonvulsant drug that a healthcare provider deemed medically necessary. 

Prior to debate there was a fiscal note on the bill, but Wishart said it was removed to comply with federal regulations.  

An amendment to the bill represented a compromise with the Department of Health and Human Services, managed care organizations and pharmacist representatives. The amendment includes LB847 and LB887, introduced by Sen. John Arch of La Vista. LB847 deals with how a label is placed on medication. LB887 authorizes pharmacists to make small modifications to the prescription with patient consent, such as changing the quantity or dosage form.

“This amendment allows someone that has had success on one of these three drugs in these categories to be grandfathered in on this medication and not face any new prior authorizations or barriers,” Wishart said.

Cash fund for battling opioid addiction

An amended version of LB1124 advanced 46-0. Sen. Sara Howard of Omaha introduced LB1124, which creates the Opioid Settlement Cash Fund, which creates a cash fund that would serve as the destination for funds that the state of Nebraska is to receive relating to the advertising of opioids. 

“Receiving this money will go a long way in combating the opioid epidemic,” Howard said.

The amendment added specifies that all funds received should be spent to combat opioid use and prevent opioid deaths in Nebraska. Funds could be used for opioid use disorders treatment, mental health and substance use disorders when they are occurring with opioid abuse, medication-assisted therapy and recovery services.

Howard took on opioid legislation several years ago when her sister died due to an opioid addiction. LB1124 is her last piece of opioid legislation because she has reached her term limit as a senator. 

“My work around opioids is the thing that I am most proud of,” Howard said.