Pharmacists will soon gather in Washington, DC, to put a face on their critical professional concerns as they meet with members of Congress on 2011 RxIMPACT Day on Capitol Hill. Organized and sponsored by the National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS), this third edition of the event, taking place March 9-10, 2011, will re-introduce the Washington crowd to one of their most important constituents in the health care debate—pharmacists.
Pharmacists will be wearing their white coats as they walk the halls of Congress, meeting with members to educate them on the significant role pharmacists can and do play in the reduction of health care costs, successful medication adherence, and patient care. In many ways, this day will drive home the message that pharmacists cannot and should not be ignored; they should be at the table for every single discussion on health care strategy and optimization of patient care in this country. It is a tactical error to omit them, sideline them, or ignore their contributions—and their potential contributions—for gaining control of the out-of-control health care costs in the United States that will burden generations to come.
It’s a message that is gaining ground. In fact, pharmacy associations are becoming more proactive as the nation’s health care system is dissected in the news and among stakeholder circles. I’ve discussed my thoughts on the current Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) in previous columns, and I am not alone in my fear that the words “affordable care” have no place in a law that will cost trillions of dollars in the long run. Recently, in The New England Journal of Medicine, author Jonathan Oberlander, PhD, said “the law suffers from something of an identity crisis.” Furthermore, because of the way in which the Democratic leaders crafted the bill and pushed it through, many of the law’s provisions will not be implemented until 2014. “Democrats were never able to stitch (those) disparate elements together and give insured Americans…a simple, coherent story about how the ACA would benefit them,” wrote Dr. Oberlander.
The result is that our nation’s health policy will become a political football during the next 2 years as budget battles, states’ rights, and the appropriate scope of government is debated. Meaningful discussions with those in Congress who can address the specifics and make sense of this law are a priority, and I applaud pharmacists for stepping up and letting their voices be heard. They will have the ear of the new Congress, as well as those who have been hearing about health care reform for the past 2 years.
It is time for fresh voices to be heard—voices that will use a common sense approach and build a better health care system without destroying the one that is currently in place. Pharmacists have much at stake, so now is the time for pharmacists and their health care colleagues to speak up and weigh in on the challenges they face. If they don’t speak up for their communities, their own independence, and professional livelihoods, it will be a cloudy future at best. It’s time for ask for the respect and the recognition pharmacists deserve— and a great place to start is on Capitol Hill.
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