Pharmacy Weighs In as Senate Closes In on Health Reform

As the debate over health care reform grinds on, all eyes appear to be on the Senate Finance Committee, where committee members this week resumed deliberations on the overhaul legislation crafted by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D, MT).

The committee was scheduled to reconvene Tuesday, after taking action on several proposed amendments last week. Members defeated an effort to increase drug manufacturer discounts for Medicare patients by more than $100 billion over 10 years, a move aimed in part at filling the Medicare Part D gap in coverage known as the doughnut hole. Opponents of the amendment argued that $80 billion in such discounts have already been pledged by drug manufacturers in an agreement announced at the White House in June.

Meanwhile, the National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS) continues to work with legislators on 3 provisions of particular interest to pharmacy:

  • Enhancement of community pharmacist-provided medication therapy management (MTM)
  • Reform of the Medicaid pharmacy reimbursement system
  • Ensuring patient access to durable medical equipment, prosthetics, orthotics, and supplies (DMEPOS), such as diabetic testing supplies

Although health agencies in some states, like Delaware and New Jersey, have adopted a more equitable formula to reimburse pharmacies for dispensing generic drugs to Medicaid beneficiaries, NACDS and other pharmacy advocates are pushing for a federal remedy to this longstanding problem. For more information on this issue, go to http://tinyurl.com/ybqxcew.

On the DMEPOS front, pharmacy advocates are opposing a regulation from the Centers for Medicare&Medicaid Services that would mandate DMEPOS providers to obtain a $50,000 surety bond per location to be accredited to serve Medicare patients.

Pharmacy groups also hope to see provisions promoting MTM in the final health care reform bill, noting how MTM can help to bring health care costs down through medication adherence and counseling, preventing more costly forms of care in the long run.

If the Senate Finance Committee finishes its markup of health care reform this week as expected, it is hoped that a bill merging its version with that of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions would reach the Senate floor for a vote the week of October 12.

For other articles in this issue, see:

Pharmacists Refused Risky Rxs for Anna Nicole Smith

Mail-Order Melee: Patient Satisfaction Surveys at Odds

A Shot for the Heart: Flu Vaccine Protects Cardiac Patients