The Affordable Care Act and Pharmacies

We recently asked our audience of pharmacists the following question: “Do you think pharmacies should be educating patients about the Affordable Care Act?” As the ACA rolls out, starting with the health insurance marketplace that opens October 1, there will be many questions and specific concerns as each person reevaluates his or her own situation. It looks like it will be a bumpy transition for both health care professionals and the public.

Even as the steps are taken to implement Obamacare, there is still fierce debate about it. In late summer, a Washington Post headline read, “80 House Republicans Urge Boehner To Block ‘Obamacare’, Even If It Shuts Down The Government”—and the article reported that more than a third of House Republicans urged their leader to trigger a government shutdown rather than fund the implementation of the health care overhaul. A total of 80 Republicans asked Speaker John Boehner, R-OH, to resist any spending bills that would accommodate the new health care law, which is nearing the critical stage of signing up millions of Americans for health care coverage.

Additionally, the US Department of Health and Human Services recently announced a delay in the signing of final agreements with insurance plans due to technology problems, but says it is still on track to open the health insurance exchanges on time. When the new online marketplace opens, the federal government will have a hotline, website, and “navigators” to help people with questions. This sounds exactly like what critics of Obamacare feared—more government, more layers, and problems with the system even before it starts.

How much this will cost the economy is coming more into focus as well. For example, Delta Airlines is expecting its health care costs to rise dramatically because of the new health care law—as much as $38 million in extra costs and nearly $100 million next year. Business owners across the country, large and small, are taking measure to reduce costs to abide by the new rules, some of them by reducing hours and cutting insurance for workers’ spouses.

With all of this as a backdrop, pharmacists are going to be put in the position of having to explain the ACA and step in as more people enter the health exchanges. Pharmacy associations are hopeful that these circumstances will elevate the role of the pharmacist and pave the way for provider status as physicians and other health care providers are stretched. No doubt, pharmacists will be called upon for their expertise in medication reconciliation and patient adherence.

So, when we asked if community pharmacists should be educating their patients about the ACA, here’s what you said—Yes (63%), No (27%), and Unsure (10%). Hopefully, you will get the information you need about the health care law and the status you deserve in the coming months.

Thank you for reading!

Mike Hennessy

Chairman/Chief Executive Officer