The National Community PharmacistsAssociation (NCPA)recently had what I believe wasa very successful conference call withstate pharmacy association executives,buying groups, and other pharmacyleaders on Medicaid. We are allon the same page on 3 critical points:
•Many of our pharmacists servecommunities with limited accessto health care providers. If pharmaciesare forced to close their doorsor drop out of government-backedhealth programs, patient access tothe medicines they need will beseriously threatened.
•A regulation proposed by theCenters for Medicare & MedicaidServices (CMS) defines AverageManufacturer Price in a way thatwill not cover our members'actualacquisition costs of generic drugs,so the definition must be changedvia the regulation or through federallegislation. Our Coalition forCommunity Pharmacy Action, acollaboration between the NCPAand the National Association ofChain Drug Stores, is working onthat right now.
•The national cost of dispensing aprescription is $10.50, according toa study supported by the CommunityPharmacy Foundation. As aresult, dispensing fees must beincreased through state-by-statelegislative or regulatory action.
A similar conference call for themedia featured 4 of our members, allof whom spoke straight from the heartabout the devastating impact thepending Medicaid cuts would have ontheir patients and communities. Specialthanks to:
•Jerry Shapiro, Uptown Drug & GiftShoppe, Los Angeles, Calif
•John Mitchener III, Mitchener'sPharmacy, Edenton, NC
•Evan Vickers, Bulloch's United DrugStore, Cedar City, Utah
•Richard Peters, Glen Raven Pharmacy,Burlington, NC
You can listen to the news conferenceat www.ncpanet.org and read ordownload some of the materials wediscussed, including fact sheets, pharmacyaccess maps, links to governmentdocuments, and other resourcesat www.ncpanet.org/leggovaffairs/medicaid.php.
In addition, there is a news releaseon a survey many independent communitypharmacists filled out askingthem if the proposed regulation fromCMS—which the independent GovernmentAccountability Office has determinedwould pay pharmacies 36%below their acquisition cost for Medicaidprescriptions—would affect theirdecision to participate in the program.Of >800 pharmacists responding, 86%said it would influence their decision,3.4% said it would not, and 8.4% wereunsure. Only 1.8% of respondents arenot currently participating in the Medicaidprogram.
During the conference call and in therelease, we stressed the widespreadconsequences these wrong-headedpolicies could have. As NCPA PresidentJohn Tilley noted:
"In thousands of communities acrossthe nation, the local community pharmacyis a vital, indispensable communityhealth resource. Government policiesthat drive independent communitypharmacies out of Medicaid, or evenout of business, will result in increasedcosts to taxpayers in terms of emergencyroom visits, hospitalizations, andother unintended health consequences.A pharmacy closed because of Medicaidregulations means its Medicareand all its other patients lose, too."
Mr. Roberts is executive vice president and chief executive officer ofthe National Community Pharmacists Association.