Unused medication bill at top of mind for Bartels



State Rep. Stephen Bartels, R-Eckerty is tackling health care, education, police, fire and veterans issues in the upcoming legislative session.

“For a short session, I will be busy,” he said.

He is proposing a bill that will allow unused medication to be donated back to pharmacies and reissued to other patients.

“It’s basically a drug donation program,” Bartels said. “This will allow the family members or patient to turn those back into the pharmacy. All of this will be voluntary; the pharmacy does not have to take it.”

Bartels learned about this idea after talking to some oncologists about chemotherapy pills, which are individually wrapped. “Even insurance pays, there’s still an out-of-pocket expense of hundreds to thousands of dollars per dose.” Bartels said. “What’s happening is either the patient’s needs change so the prescription changes, or unfortunately, the patient dies. And you have these expensive drugs that are left.”

Oncologists have been noticing that some patients refuse to get the medication. “They refuse because they truly believe that all it does is prolong their life, but they’re still going to die,” Bartels said, “and their family will have all these medical expenses.”

The turned-in pills will be inspected to make sure they have not been tampered with. “Between the doctor and pharmacist, they can reissue them at a $20 fee,” Bartels said, “and that is just to process the paperwork and the things they have to do for the federal government.”

The program would be for non-scheduled drugs, so it would not include narcotics.

Bartels has a positive feeling about this bill being passed. “I’ve talked to all the stakeholders,” he said. “Everyone seems to like the bill. I don’t think I’ll have any pushback.”

A bill that he does think he will get pushback on is his proposal to increase the tax credit for the CollegeChoice 529 savings plan from $1,000 to $2,000.

“This one is going to be hard to get through,” Bartels said. “We’re looking at potentially a $37 million loss in the state’s general fund revenue.”

But doing this would give people more encouragement to save money for college.

“There were people, even some teachers, who recommended that if we’re really wanting to help people go to college, that we need a better incentive for people to save money for that,” Bartels said. “It would put money back into citizens’ pocketbooks, those who are willing to save for college. I think it will help more people go to college.”

The main pushback will be the fact that such a bill will change the state’s funding in a non-budget year. “Generally, chairmen do not hear bills that will change the budgetary items in a non-budget year,” Bartels said. “But I do have an effective date [on the bill for] after the next budget.”

And if it doesn’t get through this time around, Bartels plans to propose it again, during the budget year.

“To get the conversation started, you go ahead and submit it knowing that it may not move, to get people thinking about it,” he said. “You don’t want to spring something like this during a budget cycle. So I’m getting this conversation started now.”

Bartels is also proposing a bill that will make some changes concerning police, fire and EMS. One of those is to increase the survivor benefit from $150,000 to $250,000. “They have their own benefit fund and already have the money for this,” he said. “So it will not be extra money from the state.”

Another change is to raise the cutoff age for hiring police officers and firefighters to 39. Now, new police officers must be between 21 and 35, and new firefighters between 21 and 36.

“We’re going to see more [military] veterans who joined when they were 17 and getting out when they’re 37,” Bartels said. “This will be an option for police and fire to hire these guys at that age where they can still do 20 years and retire from the department.”

Another bill will require veterans service officers to go through training to make sure they can assist veterans with services. “There’s so many things that need to be learned from a computer standpoint so that they can help veterans,” Bartels said. “Most of them are doing the training willingly. But we have quite a few that aren’t.”

He will also propose that a Blue Star Family license plate be created. Several people asked him to do so after he got the design of the disabled veteran plate changed.

“I don’t know where it’s going to go, but it’s one of those things that’s voluntary,” Bartels said. “It doesn’t cost anybody money, unless you choose to take that plate. So we’ll see.”

Bartels represents District 74, which includes Cass, Ferdinand, Jackson, Jefferson and Patoka townships in Dubois County, portions of Spencer and Orange counties, and all of Perry and Crawford counties.

He has a survey he would like his constituents to fill out and submit. It can be found online through his webpage, www.in.gov/h74.

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