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NCPA urges care in DME accreditation enforcement
January 26th, 2010
ALEXANDRIA, Va. – The National Community Pharmacists Association has applauded Senate leaders for calling on the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to exercise care in enforcing the Medicare Part B durable medical equipment, prosthetics, orthotics and supplies (DMEPOS) accreditation requirement for pharmacies.
NCPA said Tuesday that Senate Finance Committee chairman Max Baucus (D., Mont.) and Ranking Member Charles Grassley (R., Iowa) have sent a letter to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius urging "administrative discretion" in the enforcement of the Medicare Part B DMEPOS accreditation, the deadline for which was January 1.
"Absent the use of administrative discretion in implementing the accreditation requirement, Medicare beneficiaries could lose access to diabetic test strips, canes, walkers, nebulizers, wound care and other vital medical products," the senators' letter stated. "Beneficiaries in rural and underserved areas are particularly at risk for experiencing a reduction in access to these medical supplies.
"We therefore respectfully request that you use discretion in implementing the accreditation requirement for pharmacies in a manner that preserves beneficiaries' access to medical supplies and equipment while Congress considers the best approach for addressing this issue."
Last month, with the January 1 deadline imminent and Congress still debating health care reform legislation, NCPA had sent a letter to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) asking the agency to act immediately to avoid jeopardizing Medicare recipients' access to important health-related items, either by delaying the accreditation deadline or suspending its enforcement.
In the fall, Congress had passed legislation extending the accreditation deadline from October 1, 2009, to January 1, 2010. The bill, which wa signed into law by President Obama, also gave CMS the authority to further delay the deadline.
Bruce Roberts, NCPA executive vice president and chief executive officer, noted that the Baucus and Grassley letter to Sebelius this week conveyed the sense of urgency over the issue.
"Two top Senators sent a bipartisan message to HHS secretary Sebelius: Avoid disrupting seniors' ability to purchase essential durable medical equipment," Roberts commented.
"The Senators recognize the DMEPOS accreditation requirement is onerous, expensive and duplicative for community pharmacies. Even those pharmacies that completed this initial round of accreditation face another round in a few years. Worst of all, the requirement singles out pharmacists while exempting 17 other medical professionals," he explained.
According to Roberts, Baucus and Grassley are part of a "large, bipartisan consensus in Congress" that supports exempting pharmacies from the requirement and that such a provision was included in both the Senate and House health care reform bills. What's more, he pointed out, the move by Congress last year to extend the accreditation deadline reflects its intention to resolve this matter.
"Efforts to find a solution continue, which is why the letter's message remains critical to ensuring seniors don't lose access to supplies that help improve their health," stated Roberts.