Pharmacists Visit Capitol Hill to Push Pro-Patient Legislative Solutions



ALEXANDRIA, Va. (May 8, 2014) — Pressing legislative solutions to help ensure patients have access to robust pharmacy services, more than 300 independent community pharmacists from across the country met May 7 – 8 in Washington, D.C. for the 2014 National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA) Conference on National Legislation and Government Affairs.

Independent community pharmacists made a powerful case for implementing an “any willing pharmacy” policy for Medicare Part D “preferred” pharmacy plans; enacting H.R. 4437 to bring timely updates and transparency to generic prescription drug reimbursements; and better utilizing pharmacists by recognizing them as health care providers through H.R. 4190. The conference culminated in a rally today on Capitol Hill followed by meetings at the offices of individual lawmakers.

The rally on Capitol Hill featured remarks from a bipartisan group of lawmakers including U.S. Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wa. and Chair of the House Republican Conference), John Sarbanes (D-Md.), Ted Yoho (R-Fla.) and Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-N.M.).

“Independent community pharmacists’ efforts to improve patient outcomes require government action on three issues where the remedies are readily apparent,” said NCPA CEO B. Douglas Hoey, RPh, MBA. “NCPA’s members came to Washington with a laser-focus on pushing legislation that fixes flaws in the federal government’s largest health care program — Medicare.”

Hoey added, “If politics is about the art of the possible, then we believe our members are offering common-sense, bipartisan solutions. Independent community pharmacies should be offered the opportunity to participate in ‘preferred pharmacy’ contracts to serve seniors. In addition, the government must address the practice of reimbursing generic prescriptions through a secretive system that doesn’t keep up with price spikes. Finally, federal statute should catch up with the reality that pharmacists are trained and valuable health care providers who can and should play an expanded role in patient care. Now is the time for the U.S. Congress to act on each of these issues.”

NCPA members had the following recommendations during their visits to members of Congress:

First, apply “any willing pharmacy” approach to Medicare “preferred” pharmacy drug plans. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ (CMS) recent decision not to move forward with an “any willing pharmacy” provision in the 2015 proposed rule was regrettable and forces some seniors or their caregivers to drive extended distances to a “preferred” pharmacy. NCPA urged every member of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives to support legislation.

Substantial progress was made this week when Reps. Morgan Griffith (R-Va.) and Peter Welch (D-Vt.) introduced H.R. 4577, The Ensuring Seniors Access to Local Pharmacies Act. The bill would facilitate the participation in “preferred” pharmacy plans by community pharmacies in medically underserved areas.

Second, ensure timely updates and more transparency into reimbursement payments for multi-source generic prescription drugs. To that end, legislation entitled The Generic Drug Pricing Transparency Act, H.R. 4437, was recently introduced by Reps. Doug Collins (R-Ga.) and Dave Loebsack (D-Iowa). Generics account for approximately 80 percent of drugs dispensed. But prices for many generics are increasing by 1,000 percent or more virtually overnight while pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) may wait months to update payment rates to reflect market costs. H.R. 4437 would make the reimbursement process more transparent, require more timely updates and create an appeal process when disputes arise between the pharmacies and PBMs.

Third, recognize pharmacists as health care providers and better utilize their training and expertise. H.R. 4190 has been introduced by Reps. Brett Guthrie (R-Ky.), G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.), and Todd Young (R-Ind.). The bill allows state-licensed pharmacists in traditionally underserved communities to participate in and be reimbursed for a broader array of patient-care services in the Medicare Part B program. NCPA is part of The Patient Access to Pharmacists’ Care Coalition (PAPCC), which is working in support of this legislation.

“Independent community pharmacists received positive feedback from their elected representatives,” said Hoey. “Members of Congress understand that millions of seniors rely upon these small business health care providers, whose financial viability is increasingly jeopardized by misguided polices. NCPA’s Legislative Conference this week was a success and our members will keep up the pressure all year long.”

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