We at the National CommunityPharmacists Association(NCPA) are placinga high priority this year on cooperativeefforts and coalition building with otherorganizations to help broaden communitypharmacy's reach with legislators,regulators, and policy makers.
There is, of course, our joint governmentaffairs venture with the NationalAssociation of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS)in the Coalition for Community PharmacyAction (CCPA). The coalition has beenquite active in arranging visits by senatorsand representatives to community andpharmacies this summer and fall todemonstrate to lawmakers what front-linepharmacists do for their patients andface with pharmacy benefit managersevery day.
Last winter, we worked to simplify andstandardize Part D electronic claimsmessaging with NACDS and America'sHealth Insurance Plans (AHIP), the tradeassociation that represents nearly 1300insurers who cover >200 million Americans.Along with AHIP, NACDS, and theCenters for Medicare & MedicaidServices (CMS), we are founding membersof the Pharmacy Quality Alliance.While its primary goal is to developstrategies for defining and measuringpharmacy performance, then-CMS chiefMark McClellan, MD, PhD, noted, "Wealso expect that this could lead to newpharmacy payment models for optimizingpatient health outcomes."
Our latest coalition involves a Medicarepolicy that could drive patients withdiabetes away from the communitypharmacies where they now receive thekind of personalized treatment and concernthat keeps them active, healthy, andout of hospitals. Simply put, Medicarewants to lump self-monitoring blood glucosesystems, including meters, strips,and lancets, into the same competitivebidding/supplier accreditation categoryas durable medical equipment itemssuch as power wheelchairs, hospitalbeds, and walkers.
There simply is no comparison, whichis why NCPA, NACDS, the AmericanAssociation of Clinical Endocrinologists,and the American Association of DiabetesEducators established theDiabetes Access to Care Coalition. Wewant Mike Leavitt, secretary of Healthand Human Services, to use his authorityunder law to exempt the medical technologythat empowers the 21 millionAmericans with diabetes to easily monitortheir blood sugar levels as directed bytheir physicians.
Accreditation for state-licensed pharmacistsis unnecessary, time-consuming,and expensive. Many of our members aretelling us that it is not worth it to them toget accredited just so they can bid to sellsuch low-cost products as test strips.
Requiring accreditation and competitivebidding for pharmacy supplier participationwould impose prohibitive costs interms of money and time (an estimated$7000-$17,000 and 70 hours just toachieve initial accreditation and bid).
Any policy that limits the ability ofpatients to access products from thecommunity pharmacies that help themmanage their diabetes is shortsightedand potentially deadly. That is why ourlatest coalition is working hard to convincethe Bush administration andCongress to avoid disaster.
Mr. Roberts is executive vice presidentand chief executive officer ofthe National Community PharmacistsAssociation.
The Coalition for CommunityPharmacy Action (CCPA) is analliance between the NationalAssociation of Chain Drug Stores(NACDS) and the NationalCommunity PharmacistsAssociation (NCPA), whichtogether represents more than55,000 community pharmacies.CCPA leverages the support,effort, and infrastructure ofNACDS and NCPA while engagingcommunity pharmacy to participateand advocate on issuesaffecting the industry.