Pharmacy groups and its supporters applaud Congress for its bipartisan support to override President George Bush’s veto of the Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act of 2008 (HR 6331). The House voted 383 to 41 and the Senate voted 70 to 26 to override the veto July 16.
“America’s 23,000 community pharmacies have just been given the prescription for success in the health care marketplace. The passage of this bill will guarantee community pharmacies the ability to help millions of patients and to compete on a level playing field,” said Bruce Roberts, RPh, executive vice president and chief executive officer of the National Community Pharmacists Association.
The bill’s passage has been a challenge. On June 26, the Senate failed to pass the legislation by 1 vote. The fate of the bill changed July 9 with the Senate passage by a veto-proof margin, 69 to 30. Many legislators attribute the bill’s passage to Massachusetts Democratic Sen Ted Kennedy’s stunningly unexpected vote. Kennedy, who is battling brain cancer, appeared on the Senate floor for the first time in 7 weeks. He cited the close vote, and his potential to make a difference, as the reason for his appearance. Democrats credited Kennedy’s vote as the turning point when some Republicans realized the bill would be approved. The House passed the measure on June 24 with an overwhelming majority of 355 to 59.
Bipartisan support of HR 6331 includes key pharmacy-friendly provisions to improve patient access that would:
- Delay implementation of the new Average Manufacturer Price–based pharmacy payment plan for generics dispensed under Medicaid until October 1, 2009
- Accelerate faster payment of Medicare Part D drug claims
- Delay the implementation of the competitive billing program for durable medical equipment, prosthetics, orthotics, and supplies under Medicare Part B