More Co-Sponsors for Medicare “Any Willing Pharmacy” Legislation

Kevin Schweers
Published Online: Thursday, June 19, 2014
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The lead sponsors of The Ensuring Seniors Access to Local Pharmacies Act (H.R. 4577) are actively generating additional co-sponsors and recently added some particularly influential lawmakers to their ranks.

U.S. Reps. Morgan Griffith (R-Va.) and Peter Welch (D-Vt.) recently sent a “Dear Colleague” letter out to their fellow House members seeking their support for the bipartisan proposal.

H.R. 4577 has 22 co-sponsors at the moment. Among the supporters are the chairmen of two major committees.

Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) leads the House Judiciary Committee. In 2012 he scheduled and presided over a hearing of that panel to consider legislation that would give independent community pharmacies greater negotiating clout with pharmacy benefit managers. At the time, Goodlatte noted the following: “Independent pharmacies provide an important service and give customers a worthwhile alternative to large chain drugstores or mail-order pharmacies. There is much to be said for the personal pharmacist-patient relationship offered by these small businesses. Like many of my colleagues, I believe that independent community pharmacies should be preserved.”

Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) heads the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee. He also represents the Ninth Congressional District, in which his constituents rely on independent community pharmacies like Lech’s Pharmacy and Gatti Pharmacy, among many others.

“Medicare Part D preferred pharmacy network plans were designed to make prescription drugs more affordable for beneficiaries,” wrote Griffith and Welch. “However, these plans have also created confusion for seniors and put community pharmacies at a competitive disadvantage. Some seniors, especially in rural areas, have reported having to travel upwards of 20 miles in order to get their medications from a preferred pharmacy network because their local community pharmacy was not given the opportunity to participate in such a network.

“[The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services or CMS] had proposed to address this problem by requiring Part D plans to include “any willing pharmacy” that would accept the plan’s pricing and terms in their preferred network, but that provision of the draft rule was later rescinded. We support CMS’s policy proposal, and in order to make this the law of the land, we recently introduced H.R. 4577, the Ensuring Seniors Access to Local Pharmacies Act, to address this problem in a more tailored way. Our bill allows any willing pharmacy located within a HRSA-designated medically underserved or health professional shortage area to participate in Part D preferred networks.”

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