Alexandria, Va. July 31, 2014 - As members of Congress prepare to see voters during a month-long recess and more lawmakers sign on to cosponsor a bipartisan patient choice proposal, the National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA) today announced that a nationwide survey found overwhelming support for expanding Medicare seniors' access to discounted or "preferred" copays in medically underserved areas.
"This survey confirms widespread support for the premise of this legislation—giving Medicare seniors in medically underserved areas better access to prescription drugs and choice of pharmacy without the intervention of health insurance middlemen," said NCPA CEO B. Douglas Hoey, RPh, MBA. "It also documents that voters simply don't buy the scare tactics of billion-dollar entities whose real motivation for denying patient choice is guarding their market share."
National public opinion poll
The respected public opinion research firm Penn Schoen Berland (PSB) surveyed 1,027 likely voters earlier this month regarding their views on H.R. 4577, the Ensuring Seniors Access to Local Pharmacies Act.
Three out of four likely voters (76 percent) say they support H.R. 4577, while a much smaller fraction oppose the proposal, the survey found.
Before being asked this question regarding the legislation, voters were presented an identical number of arguments both for and against the legislation. To control for order bias, half saw supportive arguments first and opposing arguments second, while the other half saw opposing arguments first and supportive arguments second. Voter support for the Ensuring Seniors Access to Local Pharmacies Act was consistently strong among Democrats, Republicans and Independents, as well as across key demographics such as gender, age and habitat (urban, suburban, rural).
H.R. 4577 would make it more convenient for seniors and their caregivers in medically underserved areas to find lower, "preferred" copays closer to home at a pharmacy willing to accept the Medicare drug plan's contract terms and conditions. Currently health insurance middlemen decide where patients can access "preferred" copays. This has particularly disadvantaged beneficiaries and caregivers in rural areas, who may have to pay higher copays to use a local provider (such as an independent community pharmacy) or travel 20 miles or more to reach the plan's "preferred" pharmacy.
Growing congressional support for H.R. 4577
The survey comes as more lawmakers from both sides of the aisle sign on to cosponsor H.R. 4577, perhaps reflecting their constituents' support for it. The legislation now has 58 cosponsors, including 12 members of the panel with significant jurisdiction over the issue—the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Other key cosponsors include House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) and House Rules Committee Ranking Member Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.).
"NCPA commends all of the lawmakers who have cosponsored H.R. 4577 as well as Reps. Morgan Griffith (R-Va.) and Peter Welch (D-Vt.) for their efforts," Hoey added. "We hope others will soon come to support this legislation as they consider these new survey results and interact with their constituents back home."
In addition, the measure has the support of leading national health and consumer advocates including Consumers Union, HealthHIV, Medicare Rights Center, National Grange, National Senior Citizens Law Center and National Rural Health Association. The agency that administers Medicare—the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) — has also called allowing "any willing pharmacy" in Medicare Part D preferred networks "the best way to encourage price competition and lower costs" in the drug benefit program (or Part D).
The National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA®) represents the interests of America's community pharmacists, including the owners of more than 23,000 independent community pharmacies. Together they represent an $88.7 billion health care marketplace, dispense nearly 40% of all retail prescriptions, and employ more than 300,000 individuals, including over 62,000 pharmacists. To learn more, go to www.ncpanet.org, visit facebook.com/commpharmacy, or follow NCPA on Twitter @Commpharmacy.