Politics & Government

Fact check: In NC9 election, McCready says Bishop was lone vote against pharmacy bill

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9th Congressional District special election

Republican Dan Bishop, Democrat Dan McCready, Libertarian Jeff Scott and Green Party candidate Allen Smith are running in the Sept. 10 special election.

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All eyes are on North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District, where candidates are trading accusations about health care in the final days before a Sept. 10 special election.

At a WBTV debate Aug. 28, Democrat Dan McCready accused Republican state Sen. Dan Bishop of voting against a bill that would allow pharmacists to inform people about cheaper alternative drugs.

“He took the only vote from either party — the only vote — against pharmacists being able to tell people about lower-cost drugs,” McCready said.

It’s a claim McCready has repeated throughout the race on social media and in an attack ad.

He’s talking about The Pharmacy Patient Fair Practices Act, which banned gag orders discouraging pharmacists from offering customers cheaper alternative drugs. It passed 115-0 in the House and 45-1 in the Senate in 2017.

And in fact, Bishop was the only member of the North Carolina General Assembly to vote against the bill before Gov. Roy Cooper signed it into law.

On the debate stage, Bishop said his opposition was “for procedural reasons.” When he’s been confronted with the charge before, the state senator has said he didn’t have time to read the final version of the House bill before the vote and noted that he supported a similar Senate bill.

We asked both campaigns about Bishop’s position on the policy. While it’s true that Bishop cast the lone vote against The Pharmacy Patient Fair Practices Act, his votes and statements indicate he’s in favor of allowing pharmacists to tell people about cheaper alternative drugs as long as that doesn’t burden pharmacies — and, in turn, customers — with higher costs.

Bishop supports banning pharmacy gag orders

The Pharmacy Patient Fair Practices Act was introduced in both chambers of the North Carolina General Assembly in March 2017.

Over the next several weeks, those identical bills made their way through various committees in the House and Senate that amended their language. In the Senate version, Bishop backed changes that his campaign says were designed to protect consumers from additional costs.

On April 26, the bill that Bishop helped revise unanimously passed in the state Senate.

When a House version of the bill was added to the calendar on June 28, Bishop says he didn’t have time to read the bill to check that it included similar amendments.

“That was a big sticking point for him,” said Jessica Proud, a spokesperson for Bishop’s campaign. “He didn’t feel comfortable voting for legislation without ensuring that those changes had been made.” (If he had, he would have found the bill was indeed identical.)

Didn’t have time

How should elected officials vote when they haven’t done their homework?

Bishop says he votes no on any legislation he hasn’t fully read. In an email to the Charlotte television station WBTV, Bishop responded to McCready’s claim: “This companion House version was added to the Senate calendar on June 28 at the last minute and, unlike Nancy Pelosi’s advice on Obamacare, I don’t vote for bills without an opportunity to read them.”

But McCready has questioned why Bishop didn’t have time to read a bill less than two pages long.

“State Senator Bishop refused to even read the bill that would let pharmacists tell people about lower-cost drugs even though it was shorter than ‘Green Eggs and Ham,’” he said at the debate.

(We counted, and The Pharmacy Patient Fair Practices Act comes in at about 200 words shorter than Dr. Seuss’s “Green Eggs and Ham.”)

When we asked the state senator’s campaign about his lack of preparation, Proud explained that the vote followed a debate on a workers’ compensation bill that Bishop authored. The General Assembly’s website shows that votes on The Pharmacy Patient Fair Practices Act and Bishop’s workers’ compensation bill occurred less than an hour apart.

Our ruling

McCready said Bishop was the only member of the House or Senate to vote against a bill allowing pharmacists to tell people about lower-cost drugs. The roll call confirms that is correct.

However, McCready ignores the fact that Bishop supported an identical version of the bill. That vote and his statements indicate he supports the policy.

We rate the claim Half True because it leaves out important details and takes things out of context.

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