By Michael Rule, Associate Director of Public Affairs and Grassroots Advocacy
Georgia Congressman Lynn Westmoreland recently sent a follow up letter to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to raise concerns over preferred networks in Medicare Part D, particularly the fact that independent community pharmacies are often not afforded the opportunity to participate. The letter highlights that many Part D beneficiaries rely on the face-to-face counseling and the in-person services provided by independent community pharmacists. Furthermore, his letter notes that independent community pharmacies serve traditionally underserved urban and rural communities where access to care is at a premium.
While Congressman Westmoreland acknowledges that the CMS proposed rule has some positive language in it, he believes there is much left to be done and he calls for Congress and the Executive Branch to make sure that small business pharmacies can compete on a level playing field.
This follows a March 2013 letter to CMS in which Congressman Westmoreland was one of 31 signatories from the House of Representatives to express concerns over exclusionary preferred networks in Medicare Part D. In particular the lawmakers stated “we fear these networks could lead to a decrease in access to quality care and threaten the survival of community pharmacies” and further demanded a response from CMS on how they were to proceed in the future.
We applaud and greatly appreciate Congressman Westmoreland’s follow up with CMS and his support for independent community pharmacy. But it is also imperative that independent community pharmacists weigh in with CMS before the comment period closes on March 7. NCPA has been advocating for many items in the proposed rule for many years, including the language on preferred networks, and opponents of these pro-patient changes will do everything in their power to undo this progress. To assist you in communicating with CMS, We have produced a sample letter that we ask you to personalize with your own experiences to support the points made. It is extremely important that you customize your submission with your comments and do not simply submit the information provided as-is. The instructions on how to submit electronically are included with the sample letter.
In addition to contacting CMS, please email your legislators and ask them to speak favorably about the proposed rule as well.