By Bruce T. Roberts, RPh
That’s the unofficial motto of NCPA’s advocacy efforts. A key component to that work is our political action committee (PAC), which was featured in USA TODAY this week. The paper reports that in 2009 our PAC donated three times the amount it did to community pharmacy supporters in 2007, the last non-election year. What’s behind the trend and why should political advocacy be a priority for every community pharmacist?
About five years ago, I challenged community pharmacists to step up to the plate. Many did. Our grassroots efforts are more robust. The NCPA PAC has risen from 963rd to the 40th largest association PAC in the country. $1 million in contributions was distributed last year to candidates who support policies to help community pharmacists help patients.
Two events created the perfect storm for community pharmacists to realize how much impact the government has on our business.
- In 2006, Medicare Part D implementation was an eye-opener. Very slow reimbursement from plans and other problems led to the closure of thousands of independent community pharmacies in the first year or so of implementation. (A Medicare Part D prompt pay law took effect this year.)
- About the same time, Congress and federal Medicaid officials took steps to dramatically reduce Medicaid reimbursement for generic drugs to levels well below even the drug acquisition cost – a major financial hit, especially for independent pharmacies that serve the highest levels of Medicaid patients. After years of urging by NCPA, there’s now bipartisan support for an equitable fix to the average manufacturer price (AMP) formula. But we still have a long way to go.
Government is now essentially the community pharmacist’s largest business partner, due to the growth of Medicare, Medicaid and other public insurance programs. Even without health care reform, that trend continues, underscoring the need for continued advocacy by community pharmacists.
The recent Supreme Court decision adds a new element: Now large corporations (national pharmacy chains, PBMs/mail order pharmacies, etc.) can spend much more freely in supporting specific candidates. Individual pharmacies do not have anything close to their level of resources. The “mere” annual compensation of the big three PBM CEOs is by itself 35 times what the NCPA PAC contributed last year.
Advocacy can take a number of forms. Invite Members of Congress and state officials to tour your pharmacy. Join grassroots efforts to educate policymakers about the value and importance of community pharmacy.
We’ve only scratched the surface. For example, only a relative handful of pharmacy owners contribute to the PAC. Their actions have made a huge difference but still there is much more that needs to be done.
Therefore, it’s even more important to get involved with NCPA today.