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Medicare Reform Vote Falls Short-July 2008

Author: Eileen Koutnik-Fotopoulos, Staff Writer

Although the Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act of 2008 (HR 6331) passed the House with an overwhelming majority, the landmark legislation that provides pharmacy-friendly provisions failed to get the 60 Senate votes it needed on June 26. Pharmacy leaders are hopeful that lawmakers can quickly resolve the issues and pass the bill in the coming weeks.

 

Despite the setback, pharmacy groups feel they won a key victory on June 24 when the House passed HR 6331 with a vote of 355 to 59. The party breakdown was 226 Democrats and 129 Republicans in favor and 59 Republicans against.

 

Bruce Roberts, RPh, executive vice president and chief executive officer of the National Community Pharmacists Association, said the association was disappointed by the vote and thanked all senators who voted for the bill. “Unfortunately, our issues, which enjoy overwhelming bipartisan support, got wrapped up in a contentious debate unrelated to pharmacy.” Nevertheless, he said, “this often happens in Washington. We look forward to working with all our friends on Capitol Hill in the coming weeks to ensure that legislation protecting the public’s access to life-saving prescription drugs and related counsel become law.”

 

The National Association of Chain Drug Stores agreed. “The bill garnered bipartisan support in both the Senate and the House, reflecting the bill’s importance to health care and the nation’s economy,” said Steven C. Anderson, IOM, CAE, president and chief executive officer of the association. He said the group will continue to fight for pharmacy provisions in HR 6331.

 

The pharmacy provisions in the bill include postponing, until October 1, 2009, implementation of the new Average Manufacturer Price–based pharmacy payment plan for generics dispensed under Medicaid; accelerating faster payment of Medicare Part D drug claims; and delaying the implementation of the competitive billing program for durable medical equipment, prosthetics, orthotics, and supplies under Medicare Part B.