Ms. Kopple is the vice president of media relations at the National Association of Chain Drug Stores in Alexandria, Virginia.
Following the elections this fall, health care will be a critical challenge for the new president, as well as a new Congress to undertake. Rising health care costs, improving access
to quality and affordable health care, and an overall sense that health care has been on the back burner for far too long, provide us with a critical opportunity to bring these issues to the forefront and make necessary reforms. We need advocates in our industry to help impact reform by bringing these messages to the policy and decision makers.
Today, retail pharmacies can be found on nearly every corner across the nation, and their pharmacists fill approximately 3.4 billion prescriptions annually. These pharmacies, however, also play a critical role in providing patient care that can help reduce long-term health care costs. The National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS)—representing its members who serve as the face of neighborhood health care—launched its new Principles of Healthcare Reform earlier this year to help define the industry's priorities.
With transitions in government, the elevation of health care as a dominant issue, and the need to confront systemic challenges, the Principles provide an important framework as we seek to heighten awareness of our key issues. NACDS is confident in pharmacy's ability to help improve the accessibility, affordability, and quality of patient care and supports the following principles of health care reform:
- Providing high-quality, affordable, and accessible health care coverage to as many Americans as possible should be the goal of any health care reform proposal
- The reformed health care infrastructure should consist of a combination of private insurance plans augmented by existing public insurance programs, rather than a single-payer model
- The value of prescription drugs and retail pharmacy professional services should be recognized in health care reform, and patients should be able to choose where to obtain their prescription medications and pharmacy services
- Financing mechanisms for reform initiatives should be broadbased, fair, and proportionate. The flexible and nationally uniform framework for employer provision of health care benefits through the Employee Retirement Income Security Act should be maintained.
- Patients should have access to the most appropriate cost-effective medication. Lower cost, equally effective generic medications should be encouraged when appropriate.
- Preventive services, such as medication therapy management, should be encouraged. The medication and health care expertise of the pharmacist should be reflected in any efforts to facilitate collaboration in patient care.
- Methods of evaluating the costs of legislation and regulations should take into consideration the role of pharmacy professional services in preventing poor health and acute health care events that result in more costly forms of care.
- Cost-sharing should be set at affordable levels that encourage the use of the most cost-effective medications. Cost sharing, however, should not prevent patients from seeking appropriate medical care, or create barriers to accessing providers.
- Reimbursement to health care providers should be equitable. In the case of pharmacies, reimbursement should include those costs related to dispensing medication and pharmacist-provided care, as well as medication costs, both of which should be determined fairly.
- Nonpharmacy health care and educational services such as instore clinics and healthy living presentations should be explored, in collaboration with other health care providers, including the physician community
- A robust and standardized health information technology system should be the backbone of health care reform. Speeding the adoption of this technology will increase the likelihood that patients will take their medications as prescribed, helping to prevent medication errors, and enhancing medical decisionmaking and collaboration.
Health care reform will present pharmacists with the unique opportunity to build upon their current responsibilities and extend their role as an essential health care provider. We invite you to explore more about NACDS' Principles of Healthcare
Reform (www.nacds.org) and use them to advocate why pharmacies are the face of neighborhood health care.