NACDS, NCPA Urge Congress to Reject Administration's Tricare Plan

The National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS) and National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA) sent joint letters to the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction and the US Senate Armed Services Committee, encouraging the rejection of an Obama administration proposal that would result in higher costs for Tricare beneficiaries. It would also penalize their utilization of community pharmacists, who help reduce costs and improve health outcomes.

The Obama administration’s proposal would force Tricare beneficiaries to pay 30% of the cost of their medications at a retail pharmacy without capping annual cost sharing, while mail-order prescriptions would offer lower out-of-pocket costs. The administration’s plan would also increase costs by ending the incentive for drug manufacturers to offer additional price concessions to the Department of Defense beyond those required by law, as the Tricare program would equalize cost sharing between preferred and nonpreferred medicines.

In the letters, NACDS and NCPA urged the Committees to abandon that proposal and instead support other balanced policy alternatives to increase generic drug utilization, which would reduce costs without restricting patient access to healthcare professionals.

Studies have shown that community pharmacists, through face-to-face consultation, save twice the amount as mail order call centers.

“Rather than instituting changes that unfairly penalize beneficiaries and drive up prescription drug costs, we urge you to increase generic dispensing rates in both the Tricare retail and mail order settings,” NACDS President and Chief Executive Officer Steven C. Anderson, IOM, CAE and NCPA Chief Executive Officer B. Douglas Hoey, RPh, MBA wrote. “We feel strongly that a greater reliance on mail order will not only fail to produce the needed savings, but will also compromise patient care, increase waste, and penalize those who wish to have their prescriptions filled at their local pharmacy.”

Generic drug use in Tricare continues to lag behind other healthcare programs, according to the associations. The program could save $11 billion over 10 years by working with community pharmacists to maximize the appropriate use of generics and by holding its pharmacy benefits manager accountable for generic drug dispensing rates, particularly at mail order. The associations believe that this cost savings should be considered as Congress prepares the National Defense Authorization Act for FY2012 and deficit reduction proposals.

NACDS and NCPA have long-worked with Congress on the importance of continued access to community pharmacy for Tricare patients. The groups will continue to urge lawmakers to support policies that would effectively reduce costs and improve health outcomes without penalizing veterans, military service members and their families from seeking assistance from their community pharmacist, the face of neighborhood health care.