Between the Express Scripts-Medco merger, pharmacy crime, mail order in Tricare, and potential track and trace requirements in PDUFA, the 2012 NCPA Legislative Conference couldn’t be happening at a more relevant time, NCPA President Lonny Wilson, PD noted during the May 7th opening session.
Over 250 independent community pharmacists convened Monday for the Legislative Conference. It was the start of three days featuring 350 meetings with U.S. lawmakers and staff as well as presentations by top Medicare, Medicaid and other officials.
In his opening remarks NCPA CEO B. Douglas Hoey, RPh, MBA encouraged community pharmacists to remind lawmakers about three important points:
First, independent community pharmacists are small business owners. Independent pharmacies support well over 300,000 jobs in communities large and small across the country. They contribute greatly to the local community fabric as well as tax base.
Second, that prescription medication is the lifeblood of the community pharmacy business model. More than 90 percent of an independent community pharmacy’s business is in prescription drugs. In that sense, independents are the proverbial “canaries in the coal mine” that are most sensitive to reimbursement or other changes in the market.
Third, independent community pharmacies serve a disproportionate share of Medicare seniors and Medicaid recipients. These are constituencies that matter greatly to policymakers (and who often vote). So when community pharmacists speak, they also represent the voters most in need of face-to-face pharmacy services.
Community pharmacists continue to be held in high regard on Capitol Hill, noted NCPA Senior Vice President of Government Affairs John Coster, RPh. Expand that good will further, he advised. Host a pharmacy visit for Members of Congress and staff. Get and remain involved in grassroots activism.
The first day of the Legislative Conference also featured panel briefings from congressional health policy advisers, top federal officials from Medicare and Medicaid, and antitrust lawyers from the Senate, the Federal Trade Commission, and private practice. During a discussion of Medicaid’s efforts to update its federal upper limits for generic drug reimbursement, a top Medicaid official recognized NCPA as “particularly engaged and helpful” in the process.
Jonathan Blum, Deputy Administrator and Director, Center for Medicare reaffirmed that during round one of the competitive bidding program, the agency found a decrease in utilization of mail order diabetes testing supplies—a reduction likely due to the fact that mail order providers may have been autoshipping and oversupplying beneficiaries with these products. In light of this wasteful mail order spending, Blum suggested that one could infer from this that community pharmacies could serve patients better than mail order.
As part of the Legislative Conference, NCPA is running several advertisements. The first ad makes the case for how NCPA-backed legislation can empower community pharmacists to help reduce costs and improve health outcomes, while supporting local jobs. The second ad, “Why PBM Reform is Needed,” describes the heightened need for reforming pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) in the wake of the Express Scripts-Medco merger. A separate, online ad urges readers to join community pharmacists to reform PBMs: “Greater transparency. No middleman markups. Cut mail order waste. Treat patients and pharmacies fairly.”
Community pharmacists who couldn’t travel to Washington for the Legislative Conference can still get involved. To be part of NCPA’s Virtual Advocacy May 8-9, please visit the NCPA Action Center. Send an email to your elected officials and urge their support for pro-patient, pro-pharmacist legislation.