One of the cost-saving solutions NCPA has put forward to the Congressional deficit “super-committee” is that lawmakers pass H.R. 1936, The Medicare Access to Diabetes Supplies Act. Recently, the bill’s sponsors took that message straight to the super-committee and their efforts should be lauded.
H.R. 1936 would reduce the deficit while preserving seniors’ ability to continue obtaining diabetes testing supplies and counseling from independent community pharmacies. U.S. Representatives Aaron Schock (R-Ill.) and Peter Welch (D-Vt.) introduced the bill this spring and they recently hand-delivered a letter urging the bill’s inclusion in any cost-saving plan that the super-committee produces.
Barring passage of H.R. 1936 or some other exemption of independent community pharmacies from competitive bidding, it seems a near-certainty that these pharmacies would stop offering the testing supplies in order to avoid significant financial losses. That presents a particular hardship for seniors in underserved rural and inner-city areas where independents may be the only pharmacy around. There and elsewhere local pharmacists are regularly called upon by patients for expert counseling on the proper use of these products.
In a survey of 800 community pharmacists this fall, 84 percent said they would cease selling Part B diabetic testing supplies if forced to take reduced payments or competitively bid. The overwhelming majority (81 percent) said they regularly deliver diabetes testing supplies to patients (often free of charge) and 28 percent make 30 or more deliveries per month. One noted, “Like many independents, we really only participate because of the patients, not because of profit. We get most new patients because they are tired of the waste from mail-order.”
Reps. Schock and Welch have really emerged as health care leaders who deserve the support of patients and community pharmacists. They appreciate the value of local pharmacists and their contributions to patient care. In 2010, Rep. Schock weighed in with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to express concerns over its proposed “short-cycle” proposal – which the agency ultimately postponed in order to make it more practical for long-term care patients and pharmacists. He also convened a meeting to discuss the impact in his district of Caterpillar’s move to a restricted network pharmacy plan.
Across the aisle, Rep. Welch has consistently spoken out on the diabetes testing supply issue and co-sponsored a similar bill in the last Congress. Recently, he also voiced his concerns with the proposed Express Scripts-Medco mega-merger and has previously sought a Congressional hearing about problems surrounding PBMs.
One step forward for H.R. 1936 and two pro-patient, pro-pharmacist lawmakers.