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Delaware Senate Democrats

Delaware Senate advances two major healthcare bills

April 27, 2021

DOVER – Senate Democrats on Tuesday advanced legislation that would make basic healthcare services more accessible and more affordable for thousands of Delawareans.

Senate Bill 105 and Senate Bill 109, respectively sponsored by Sen. Marie Pinkney, D-New Castle, and Sen. Sarah McBride, D-Wilmington, both passed the Senate overwhelmingly and now head to the House for final consideration.

Senate Bill 105 would allow Delawareans to purchase contraceptives at local pharmacies without a prescription. Instead, the bill instructs the Division of Public Health to create a written standing order enabling pharmacists to dispense pills, patches, vaginal rings, injectables and other contraceptives under rules established by the Department of Health and Social Services.

At least 14 states and the District of Columbia currently allow pharmacists to dispense contraceptives without prescriptions.

A 2020 study of women in four states where pharmacists are able to dispense contraceptives found that women who used a pharmacy for their birth control needs tended to be younger, uninsured and have less education than those who received a prescription from their healthcare provider – the same demographics that tend to experience higher rate of unintended pregnancies.

In Oregon, where lawmakers passed similar legislation in 2015, 10% of all contraceptives are now accessed directly through pharmacists. Additionally, according to a 2019 article from the Oregonian, “nearly 74% of all prescriptions written by pharmacists in that state were to people who had not used the pill, patch, or ring in the month prior.”

“Senate Bill 105 will allow thousands of Delawareans – particularly women of color and women with limited financial means – to take control of their reproductive health,” said Sen. Pinkney. “In a state where access to primary care doctors is lacking and getting worse, this is a much-needed step that will protect the rights and reproductive health of women and all Delawareans who can become pregnant. I am proud to sponsor this bill and look forward to leading the effort to make access to birth control easy and more every single person who needs it.”

SB 105 now heads to the House for final consideration.

“Contraceptives have been proven as safe, reliable, and effective through decades of use and are now as much a basic health necessity as many over-the-counter medications. However, for many in our state who may not have access to a primary care doctor, OB-GYN, or reliable transportation, these vital medications are virtually inaccessible,” said Rep. Kendra Johnson, D- Bear, the House prime sponsor. “Allowing residents to discuss and receive these important birth control medications directly from their local pharmacists, who are knowledgeable about the risks and benefits of these medications, is an important step toward closing the healthcare gap that exists in Delaware.”

Senate Bill 109, sponsored by Sen. Sarah McBride, seeks to improve the access, quality, and affordability of home health care, which many Delawareans rely on during acute illness, in advanced age, or after discharge from a hospital setting.

Specifically, the bill would establish a rate floor for Medicaid reimbursement to home health care nursing services – a step taken for private duty nurses 2017.

While home-health care is essential for many Delawareans, there is an increasing strain on the system for those who receive those services through Medicaid. Already stagnant reimbursement rates are frequently negotiated down further, which leads to low pay and high workloads for direct-care workers. Those problems are leading to a workforce shortage and high turnover, which in turn negatively impact the quality and availability of home health care.

SB 109 seeks to end that downward cycle by solidifying current and future reimbursement rates as an enforced minimum.

“Personal care workers are on the frontlines of care and they deserve to know that we value their lifesaving work,” Sen. McBride said. “It is time to bolster our care infrastructure by ensuring that there is integrity to our Medicaid reimbursement rates for these critical services. Plus, the benefits of SB 109 flow in two directions: not only can this legislation result in better, more available care at home for Delawareans, it can finally help raise wages for some of our most egregiously underpaid direct care workers, all of whom have done heroic work over the past year.”

“Home health care workers are highly skilled professionals who provide medical care and personal support that allows our vulnerable loved ones to enjoy a higher quality of life,” said Rep. Deb Heffernan,D-Brandywine. “Unfortunately, these devoted caregivers are often subjected to unsafe working conditions while receiving poverty-level wages. This legislation will ensure that these vital members of the medical community will be compensated at a fair rate that reflects the important and lifesaving work they perform.”