Congress returns to Washington this week after the President’s Day recess. During that break several U.S. Representatives took time to visit independent community pharmacies. They saw first-hand the value pharmacies provide in meeting local health needs as well as the challenges posed by regulation, legislation and other factors.
In Northern Virginia, Vienna Rexall Drug has managed to endure competition from a neighboring CVS, Rite Aid and now a Walgreens. U.S. Rep. Gerald Connolly, a member of the House Budget Committee as well as the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, spent about an hour touring the pharmacy, talking to patients and watching staff help customers with their health needs.
Robert Borgatti of the pharmacy told him about the impact regulation has on their business. In particular, meeting Medicare’s new durable medical equipment accreditation requirement took untold staff hours and cost thousands of dollars. They’ll have to repeat the process every 2-3 years. All this for what is only a fraction of their business. Because of the hassle and cost of accreditation, thousands of community pharmacies plan on opting out of the program instead, creating access concerns for seniors. NCPA’s urging Congress to add pharmacists to the list of 17 health care providers already exempted.
U.S. Rep. Lincoln Davis was hosted by pharmacist Alan Tatum of Cookeville Med Plus Pharmacy and Payless Family Pharmacy of Cookeville and Sparta, Tenn., respectively. Rep. Davis met the staff, patients and toured the facility, including its counseling area, compounding room, and wellness center.
“We discussed a few of the issues that are so important to independent pharmacy,” Tatum said. “I addressed the issue of over-regulation of the pharmacy industry at tremendous expense, both monetarily and in time spent to comply. We probably spent the most time speaking about the PBMs and the ‘games’ they play at the expense of the patients, pharmacies, and payors, including government entities.”
Pharmacy visits were also scheduled last week with U.S. Reps. Rodney Alexander of Louisiana, Darrell Issa of California and Glenn “GT” Thompson of Pennsylvania. And U.S. Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D-NC) toured Wayne Pharmacy in Goldsboro, NC, according to the Washington (NC) Daily News.
A few weeks earlier, U.S. Rep. Bill Lipinski visited Archer Pharmacy in Garfield Ridge, Ill.
“Archer Pharmacy is the kind of local small business that everyone wishes they had in their neighborhood,” Congressman Lipinski said afterward on his Web site. “Owner Jack Lazzara grew up in Garfield Ridge, and his pharmacy has been serving the residents of his community – where I grew up – for more than 20 years. He knows the people who walk through his door by name and does all he can to take care of them, especially seniors struggling with their medications. Small businesses like Archer Pharmacy are the backbone of our economy, and as part of the House Small Business Committee, I’ve been working to make sure we do everything we can to keep them strong and vital.”
“I always feel a need to give back to the community I grew up in,” said owner Jack Lazzarra. “I know Congressman Lipinski feels the same duty to his constituents, and it’s always a pleasure to get a chance to talk with him about the issues facing our country and the challenges that pharmacies like mine confront today. By making a personal visit to our pharmacy and seeing firsthand the legislative issues and insurance industry problems we are dealing with, Congressman Lipinski showed me how he makes time to be involved with even a small business like our pharmacy.”
Not enough payers and patients know the lengths to which community pharmacists go to produce positive health outcomes. Similarly, Members of Congress have such broad responsibilities and so many demands for their time, that it’s a challenge for them to stay current on health care generally and pharmacy in particular. There’s no substitute for seeing a community pharmacy up close.
If you’re interested in inviting a Member of Congress or state official to visit your pharmacy, NCPA can help. Contact Bob Aldrich at (703) 683-8200.