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NACDS primed for RxImpact Day on Capitol Hill
February 14th, 2011
WASHINGTON – The centrality of pharmacists and pharmacies to the health and wellness of Americans — regardless of what happens with health care reform — will be highlighted next month at the third annual NACDS RxImpact Day on Capitol Hill.
A day of grassroots advocacy on Capitol Hill, this year's RxImpact initiative will take a nonideological, nonpartisan approach while emphasizing pharmacy’s ability to cut costs and improve patient health outcomes by providing services beyond dispensing prescriptions, says Paul Kelly, vice president of federal government affairs at the National Association of Chain Drug Stores.
Among other messages, advocates will call for the passage of legislation expanding the medication therapy management (MTM) provision in the Medicare Part D prescription drug benefit, Kelly says. Such a bill is expected to be introduced by Sen. Kay Hagan (D., N.C.), who is also slated to be a speaker at RxImpact Day.
Representing community pharmacy at the March 9 to March 10 event will be a diverse group, ranging from pharmacists and store managers to executives and state pharmacy association leaders. There will also be pharmacy school students and deans in attendance.
Following a reception and dinner on March 9 and a breakfast briefing on March 10, participants will have hundreds of appointments with members of Congress and their aides. Last year’s 250 attendees had more than 220 appointments.
RxImpact Day serves to educate pharmacy advocates about the workings of Washington and enlighten legislators about the value of pharmacy, according to Heidi Ann Ecker, director of government affairs and grassroots programs at NACDS.
Participants will learn how they can effectively present the issues of the day to lawmakers and then be able to put the lesson into practice with meetings over the course of the day.
Paul Kelly, vice president of federal government affairs at NACDS
As advocates make the rounds they will wear their white coats, “which we think is a powerful way of showcasing pharmacy, not only in their meetings but as they’re walking through the corridors of power,” Ecker says. “We’re really excited about having that type of presence.”
Registrants will be divided into teams of about five people with a leader who will introduce his or her team’s members to the ways of the federal government. That will raise the comfort level of attendees as they travel the halls of Congress, notes Ecker.
“It’s a real nice way to introduce Washington to someone who hasn’t been there before,” she says. “We firmly believe that if you have a good experience the first time you’ll be back, and that’s certainly been the case over the past three years.”
With last fall’s midterm elections having brought 112 new lawmakers to Congress, the RxImpact Day program’s effort to educate lawmakers will take on added importance, Kelly points out.
“That’s a lot of people to introduce your industry to,” he comments. “There’s still a great gap in most policy makers’ understanding of what pharmacists do and what pharmacies can provide to the health care system.
“Probably fewer than 5% know that pharmacists can provide immunizations in every state in the country,” Kelly says. “This conference is a huge part of our continual effort to educate lawmakers about the high-quality health care services in retail pharmacies.”
Although NACDS is neutral on the health care reform law and the House Republicans’ repeal effort, it supports the act’s pro-patient, pro-pharmacy provisions. Those include MTM grants, improved rules for pharmacy participation in the Medicare durable medical equipment program and withdrawal of the average manufacturer price (AMP) model for Medicaid generic drug reimbursements.
Kelly says RxImpact Day sprang from recognition of the truth of former House speaker Tip O’Neill’s adage, “All politics is local.” The program maximizes “the great potential that our members have to influence public policy,” he says. “You can create the best lobbying documents and make the best lobbying presentations imaginable here in Washington, but until that message is delivered from the folks back home you’re fighting with one arm tied behind your back.”