After the Supreme Court’s narrow decision late last month to uphold the bulk of President Obama’s health care reform legislation, advocates for community pharmacies and retailers weighed in with a range of reactions.

Supreme Court, health care reform, Affordable Care Act, health care reform law, community pharmacies, retailers, community pharmacy, National Association of Chain Drug Stores, Steve Anderson, health care costs, pharmacy industry, pharmacists, American Pharmacists Association, Thomas Menighan, Medicare Part D, doughnut hole, medical homes, accountable care ­organizations, pharmacy advocates, National Community Pharmacists Association, B. Douglas Hoey, prescription drugs, pharmacy benefit, health insurance, health insurance exchanges, medication therapy management, National Retail Federation, Matthew Shay, employer mandate, health reform law, Retail Industry Leaders Association, Sandy Kennedy, John Roberts, individual mandate, Medicaid, Richard Monks

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Industry reacts to Supreme Court health reform ruling

July 16th, 2012

NEW YORK – After the Supreme Court’s narrow decision late last month to uphold the bulk of President Obama’s health care reform legislation, advocates for community pharmacies and retailers weighed in with a range of reactions.

While many of the groups criticized the high court’s ruling to uphold almost all of the Affordable Care Act as a blow to employers, most agreed that some provisions in the law that will fully go into effect 17 months from now will help keep patient costs down.

They stressed that community pharmacy will continue to play a huge role in meeting that goal.

“As we have said all along, health care reform remains a constant pursuit,” National Association of Chain Drug Stores president and chief executive officer Steve Anderson says. “With the Supreme Court’s decision, the best approach for future progress continues to be saving lives, enhancing patient care and reducing health care costs. NACDS and the pharmacy industry we represent have the power and potential to help achieve these goals.”

Those sentiments were echoed by others in the pharmacy arena, with some advocates citing the law’s provisions that will help pharmacists become more deeply involved in patient care.

“The Supreme Court ruling is an important opportunity for pharmacists to help patients with their medications,” American Pharmacists Association chief executive officer and executive vice president Thomas Menighan says. “We are pleased that the many pharmacy-friendly provisions of the Affordable Care Act will remain in force.”

For instance, he notes, the court’s ruling means that elements of the law that the pharmacy community feels are important will stand, including closure of the Medicare Part D "doughnut hole" and opportunities for pharmacists’ inclusion as members of the health care team in medical homes and accountable care ­organizations.

Pharmacy advocates also stress that by upholding the health care reform law the Supreme Court has protected pharmacies’ ability to be adequately reimbursed for government-funded prescriptions.

National Community Pharmacists Association chief executive officer B. Douglas Hoey, for instance, notes that the law includes provisions to achieve reasonable reimbursement for Medicaid generic prescription drugs and transparency requirements for pharmacy benefit managers in the health insurance exchanges set to launch in 2014. In addition, he notes, medication therapy management will be expanded in Medicare.

Still, while pharmacy advocates were praising the Supreme Court for helping to ensure that the nation’s health care system continues to evolve and become more cost-effective, other retailer groups condemned the decision as bad for business.

“This law will have a dramatic, negative impact on every employer and employee in the United States and further constrain job creation and economic growth,” National Retail Federation president and chief executive officer Matthew Shay says. “It penalizes employers too much; it doesn’t do enough to reduce the cost of health care; and it is unreasonably complicated and difficult to implement and administer.”

NRF says that the new regulations that the health reform law imposes on employers who do not provide care will not bring down the cost of health care for those business by will rather wind up costing the more.

Retail advocates say one of the most problematic parts of the health care reform law upheld by the Supreme Court is the so-called employer mandate.

Retailers say the law is vague on what will be required of them and fear that once the regulations are made more clear they will be overly burdensome.

“While retailers are committed to continuing to provide health coverage to their employees, overregulation jeopardizes their ability to do so,” Retail Industry Leaders Association president Sandy Kennedy says.

In its 5-4 decision on June 28, with Chief Justice John Roberts leading the majority, the Supreme Court decided that the Affordable Care Act's controversial "individual mandate" — which required individuals to buy health insurance or pay a penalty — was constitutional under Congress' authority to levy taxes.

The court also determined that the health care reform law's expansion of Medicaid eligibility requirements was constitutional but not its stipulation that the federal government can deny states all Medicaid funding if they don't comply. If states decide not to accept the expanded eligibility, they can continue to receive funds for the rest of the Medicaid program, just not the new funding under the act.