Gov. Mike DeWine signed the 3,200-page, two-year state operating budget into law on Thursday but used his veto pen on 25 items, including mandates that Ohio Medicaid pick a single pharmacy benefit manager to oversee the $2.5 billion prescription drug program and re-bid managed care contracts by July 1.
DeWine said Thursday that he shares the lawmakers’ reform goals but believes the “prescriptive language” in the budget bill would have made it more difficult to get it done.
Pharmacy benefit managers are private companies that contract with insurance companies and they say they negotiate discounts on drugs to save their members money. The companies were once an obscure part of the pharmacy supply chain but have been accused of keeping too much of the money they manage and not passing along savings from drug rebates.
DeWine and lawmakers agreed to increase the purchase age to 21 for tobacco and vaping products, up from 18. The governor vetoed a provision that would have “grandfathered” Ohioans who turn 18 before October to let them legally purchase cigarettes and other tobacco products. DeWine said the grandfather clause would have made enforcement difficult.
Related: Ohio to raise tobacco purchase age to 21
He also vetoed several education changes that would have directed more money to rapidly growing school districts, eliminated teacher certification requirements and allow an out-of-state private school operator to avoid state oversight.
“I’m very happy with this budget,” DeWine said, adding that it makes investments in workers, children, clean water, and more. “It’s a budget that really looks to the future of the state of Ohio.”
Lawmakers embrace tax cuts, education changes in state budget
The bill lays out how Ohio will spend more than $142 billion over two years and makes hundreds of policy changes. It increases state money earmarked for children’s services, foster care, school counseling services, kinship care and more and earmarks at least $172 million over two years for the newly created H2Ohio Fund for water quality and protection projects.
DeWine vetoed a provision that would have halted an upcoming ban on the manufacture and sale of baby crib bumpers. In 2016, Ohio moved to ban crib bumpers, starting in April 2020 if the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission hasn’t establish rules by then.
The American Academy of Pediatrics opposes the use of crib bumpers, which are decorative and serve no safety purpose. Ohio’s infant mortality rate — the number of babies who die before age 1 per 1,000 live births — ranks among the highest in the nation.
“Sleep-related deaths are often preventable by placing babies alone, on their backs, and in a safe crib,” DeWine said in his veto message.
Related: Gov. Mike DeWine on Ohio's infant deaths: 'This must stop'
The governor also rejected a provision related to Ohio’s 10-year-old “Safe Haven Law,” that allows parents to drop off infants up to 30 days old at fire stations, police stations or hospitals without penalty or questions. Drop off points are allowed to use emergency infant incubator, or ‘baby boxes’ but state Department of Health rules require that those be monitored 24/7.
State Sen. Rob McColley, R-Napoleon, wanted to loosen that restriction to allow fire and police stations to use baby boxes with alarms as long as someone could respond within seven minutes.
The governor rejected that plan, saying “Unattended newborn safety incubators rely on technology to alert staff to respond to the child. Failed technology or a delay in staff response times could result in injury to the child, or even death.”