Pharmacist Voices Continue to Pave the Way for Policy Successes

By Michael Rule, Manager of Public Affairs and Grassroots Advocacy

In August 2012, we highlighted some important grassroots successes and encouraged pharmacists to continue their grassroots involvement to reap future victories. It seems many pharmacists are doing that locally and already achieved some success in 2013 from their efforts.

For example, at the state level, MAC transparency legislation has been passed unanimously by both houses of the legislature in Kentucky and was recently signed by the Governor. Similar legislation has also unanimously passed both houses of the North Dakota legislature and now awaits the Governor’s signature. In both cases, NCPA supported the work of the state associations and other stakeholders by issuing grassroots calls to action. The grassroots activities of pharmacists in these states helped to reinforce the message that policymakers heard from representatives of the state associations and other stakeholders.

In addition to state level successes, NCPA has been engaged on issues such as preferred networks in Medicare Part D, including influencing the final CMS call letter for 2014 and the discussions by FDA and DEA to reschedule hydrocodone containing products to Schedule II. In both instances, NCPA members have made their voices heard by their elected officials, CMS and the FDA. In terms of preferred networks, patient complaints and pharmacist phone calls and visits with legislators helped to secure 29 additional co-signers to a letter to CMS that was led by Congressman Morgan Griffith (R-VA) and Peter Welch (D-VT). That’s significant considering the pressure health plans were applying to discourage members of Congress from signing this letter. Further, pharmacist efforts in promoting Fight4RX and My Preferred Pharmacy, have helped secure more than 1,100 patient letters to Congress asking for a legislative solution.

At the regulatory level, NCPA members submitted comments to CMS regarding the draft call letter for 2014 Part D plans that included pro-independent pharmacy provisions regarding pharmacy audits, preferred networks and requirements that mail order pharmacies obtain patient consent prior to refilling their prescriptions. Thanks in part to these comments; many of these provisions were included in the final call letter. (An analysis of the call letter is available on the NCPA website in the blue Medicare Part D box in the members’ only section.) Further, many pharmacists took time to submit comments to the FDA to oppose rescheduling of hydrocodone. In fact, analyses shows that half of all public comments submitted to FDA came from pharmacists against rescheduling. The comments reinforce to FDA that rescheduling of hydrocodone is a controversial proposal.

While pharmacists should be proud of these accomplishments, it is important not to lose sight of the legislative battles ahead at both the state and federal level. Several state legislatures are considering MAC transparency bills and/or PBM audit reform bills and NCPA will remain engaged to promote these bills. But, we still need your grassroots efforts to be successful.

Conversely, at the federal level we will face strong opposition from the PBMs to enact PBM audit and MAC reform legislation and bipartisan legislation to allow independent pharmacies to collectively negotiate contracts in certain circumstances. Additionally, we continue to pursue a fix to Medicare Part B reimbursements for diabetes testing supplies (DTS) set to take full effect on July 1. A fix is necessary to allow small business independent pharmacies to continue to offer these supplies and for Medicare Part B beneficiaries to maintain access to the services provided by their independent community pharmacies.

The upcoming NCPA Legislative Conference from May 7-8 provides an ideal time to try and meet with your legislators and discuss these issues. If you are unable to attend, please participate in Community Pharmacy Advocacy Week through grassroots activities at home. Click here for a list of examples of ways you can make your voice heard.

Please keep up the grassroots momentum since it will be critical to passing key legislation important to independent community pharmacy, and please remember successful grassroots mobilization includes engaging your patients, employees and friends to also voice support.

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