By Michael Rule, Associate Director of Public Affairs and Grassroots Advocacy
Previously, The Dose posted a call to action during the August Congressional recess, imploring independent community pharmacists to use the opportunity to share their experiences with their elected officials, and encouraging them to host their elected officials for a pharmacy visit if possible. Over the course of the last several weeks, NCPA has received feedback from pharmacists demonstrating that several members of the House and Senate took advantage of the opportunity to tour a local pharmacy. The following are just a few examples visits that have taken place.
Recently, Apple Discount Drugs in Fruitland, MD had the opportunity to host Congressman Andy Harris (R-MD). This visit focused on compounding legislation introduced in the Senate. The Senate was poised to take up their version of compounding legislation (S. 959) prior to the August recess, but postponed action until September. This visit provided an opportunity for owner Jeff Sherr to discuss the negative impacts of this legislation on small business independent community pharmacy and the ill effects it could have on patients. Mr. Sherr was quoted in local media as saying “I think it’s our job, as the community, to reach out and let legislators know what is going on. I think many times our legislators will vote on things and they really don’t have a true handle on what it’s all about.” Thanks to this grassroots effort, Congressman Harris came away from the visit with a better understanding on the impacts of the Senate legislation and noted, “There are small businesses that really could be very badly affected by increased government regulation. You shouldn’t pass nationwide legislation that’s very comprehensive based on one case of one bad apple.” The local media coverage of this visit amplified the message, allowing Mr. Sherr to reach a broader audience in explaining the importance of pharmacy compounding.
While the preceding example was narrowly focused on compounding, this second story illustrates that a pharmacy visit can also be an opportunity to educate an elected official on an array of issues important to independent community pharmacy. Jim Matthews, COO of Hometown Pharmacy hosted Congressman Tim Walberg (R-MI) at their North Monroe location in Monroe MI, one of their now prototype locations, and used the opportunity to discuss abusive pharmacy benefit manager (PBM) audits and the need for legislation to implement audit reforms. In addition, Mr. Matthews addressed the need for a reversal on the ban on pharmacies from providing home delivery of diabetes testing supplies (DTS) to Medicare Part B beneficiaries. Further, like Mr. Sherr in Maryland, Mr. Matthews spoke about the harmful impact of proposed compounding legislation in the Senate would have on small business independent community pharmacy and the patients who rely on this service. Mr. Matthews also raised the idea of expanding the role of pharmacists in the healthcare system, particularly as the Affordable Care Act is implemented and more patients require care.
Finally, Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO) highlighted the important role independent community pharmacy plays in rural communities. He visited Abts pharmacy in Haxtun, CO to highlight a loan made available to pharmacy owners Melissa and Travis Bumgardner through the Farm Bill and USDA Rural Development. This loan has allowed the Bumgardner’s to expand their services into a community that had not had a pharmacy in ten years and makes pharmacy services more accessible to patients in the community.
These are just a few examples of pharmacy visits over the August recess, but we thank all legislators who participated in one as well as the pharmacies that hosted them. These visits go a long way in helping policymakers understand the patient care and services independent community pharmacists provide. If policymakers enact the common sense solutions presented by pharmacists during these visits, it would go a long way in ensuring patients retain access to the patient-centric services offered by these small business independent community pharmacies and help expand access in rural areas.
We urge all policymakers to take time to tour an independent community pharmacy in their state or district over their next recess.
If you are interested in hosting a future pharmacy tour, click here for additional information on how to do so.