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NACDS hits Capitol Hill as Senate mulls health reform bill
September 22nd, 2009
ALEXANDRIA, Va. – Over a dozen members of the National Association of Chain Drug Stores board are meeting with congressional lawmakers to highlight pharmacy's key role in controlling health care costs and improving service quality and access.
NACDS said the Tuesday meetings come at a critical time, as the Senate Finance Committee deliberates this week on new health care reform legislation. Committee chairman Max Baucus (D., Mont.) last week unveiled the America's Health Future Act, which proposes to invest $856 billion to overhaul the nation's health care system over 10 years.
Steve Anderson, NACDS president and chief executive officer, noted that the association's board members will urge lawmakers to include pro-patient, pro-pharmacy policies as they assess the legislation.
"We are pleased that many of our board members could be in Washington, D.C., today," Anderson said in a statement. "Consistent with the NACDS Principles of Healthcare Reform, we have advocated provisions that are essential for cost-effective and high-quality patient care."
Those provisions, NACDS said, cover three pharmacy topics included in bills now under consideration in Congress: enhancement of community pharmacist-provided medication therapy management (MTM); reform of the Medicaid pharmacy reimbursement system; and ensuring patient access to durable medical equipment (DME), such as diabetic testing supplies, through community pharmacies.
The New England Healthcare Institute recently estimated that the overall cost of poor medication adherence, measured in otherwise avoidable medical spending, is as much as $290 billion per year, or 13% of total health care outlays, NACDS reported. In meetings with lawmakers, NACDS is calling on Congress to include MTM provisions that can help lower health care costs by improving patient care and health outcomes, heading off more expensive forms of care over the long term.
Regarding the reimbursement issue, NACDS cited a Government Accountability Office estimating that, under current law and subsequent rules by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, pharmacies would be paid 36% below cost for many generic drugs dispensed to Medicaid patients. The association also noted that four years ago, the Deficit Reduction Act mandated the average manufacturer price (AMP) as the benchmark for payment to pharmacies for generic drugs and that the law would result in cuts of $8.5 billion for Medicaid reimbursements to pharmacies over five years — a 30% reduction.
A temporary delay, set forth by the 2008 Fair Medicaid Drug Payment Act, is in place until September 30, and a preliminary injunction stemming from a lawsuit filed by NACDS and the National Community Pharmacists Association also has temporarily blocked the cuts. Pharmacy advocates are urging lawmakers to permanently fix this system, according to NACDS.
"Pharmacies are essential to health care delivery everyday, and the current H1N1 situation is yet another example of just how true that is," Anderson commented, referring to rising public concern about the spread of the swine flu virus. "Pharmacies are integral to the national H1N1 vaccination strategy, and this demonstrates that the accessibility of pharmacy should be tapped, and not jeopardized, through damaging policies."