Steven C. Anderson, president and CEO of the National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS), and B. Douglas Hoey, RPh, CEO of the National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA), issued a statement
in response to the US Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) approval of California’s state Medicaid cuts to pharmacists and other health care providers serving the low-income recipients of the program, also known as Medi-Cal:
“We are extremely disappointed with the unconscionable Medi-Cal reimbursement cuts proposed by the state and approved by HHS. If left in place, we believe that these reductions would greatly harm millions of Californians by effectively reducing their access to community pharmacies and the health care system as a whole. The impact in terms of compromised health outcomes for patients or delayed access to needed services could be significant.
“These cuts alarm community pharmacists and have long been opposed by NACDS and NCPA
for three critical reasons. First, community pharmacists provide expert medication advice and promote cost-saving generic drugs. Now patient access will likely suffer as many pharmacies may be forced to cease filling prescriptions and providing counseling to these patients for fear of jeopardizing their pharmacy’s financial viability.
“Second, we believe that the Medi-Cal cuts will mean fewer jobs and local tax revenue at the worst possible time for the state’s economy. Pharmacy reimbursement by public and private health plans has already been declining for many years. These cuts could be the tipping point that forces community pharmacies to scale back operating hours, employee hours, or to close altogether.
“Third, these short-sighted cuts could very well backfire and ultimately increase costs for California and the federal government. Pharmacy services are arguably the best value in health care. As a result of the diminished pharmacy access these cuts will trigger, patients will likely either endure greater and costlier health problems or have to turn to more expensive providers such as emergency rooms for the medication and counseling they need.
“In addition, it is surprising and disappointing that the federal and state officials involved have acted with such disregard to the judicial system, with a related case
pending before the U.S. Supreme Court. No one should presume the outcome of the case of Douglas v. Independent Living Center of California and the federal review of California’s proposed cuts should never have been concluded while the case is active.
“Community pharmacists can work with states to reduce health care costs
by eliminating needless medical expenses and increasing appropriate generic drug use. As state and federal health care officials begin to realize the consequences of these actions, it is our hope that they will go back to the drawing board to develop a more practical budget approach.”