2014 Election: Some Positive Steps for Pharmacists, Patients

By Kevin Schweers

Among the many changes resulting from the Nov. 4, 2014 elections are several encouraging developments for independent community pharmacists and their patients.

First and most notably, Rep.-elect Buddy Carter (R-Ga.) won a convincing 61%-39% victory in Georgia’s First Congressional District. Upon his swearing in, he will become the only pharmacist in the U.S. Congress, where he should be a valuable resource for his colleagues.

NCPA strongly supported his candidacy and congratulates him on his victory. Community pharmacists from across the state and the country backed his campaign.

Second, North Dakota voters strongly endorsed their state law requiring that a pharmacist be the majority owner of any pharmacy. (Some national chains that were grandfathered in do operate in the state.)

By a 59%-41% margin voters turned back Measure 7, a Walmart-financed effort to scrap the pharmacist ownership requirement. The lopsided result is particularly impressive considering the community pharmacists opposing the proposal were outspent and pre-election polling suggested that the vote could come down to the wire.

A mid-October survey conducted by the University of North Dakota College of Business and Public Administration found the public roughly split: 39% opposed the measure; 35% supported it; and a significant 26% were undecided. The final results suggest that the arguments of pharmacists and their backers truly resonated with those undecided voters.

“This issue has been defeated legally, legislatively and now the public has spoken and voted on this issue,” North Dakota Pharmacists Association Executive Vice President Mike Schwab told Inforum.com.

Congratulations to the North Dakota pharmacists and their patients on a spirited campaign that produced this victory.

Third, South Dakota voters overwhelmingly ratified an “any willing provider” ballot initiative to give patients greater choice of health care providers, by a sweeping 62%-38% vote. Initiated Measure 17, as it is formally known, would allow patients to go to any state-licensed health care providers — including pharmacists — who are willing to accept the insurance plan’s contract terms and conditions. In other words, the choice of provider would largely be left to the patient, not insurance middlemen.

The measure overcame opposition from the insurance lobby and holds obvious parallels to the campaign by NCPA and others to allow “any willing pharmacy” to offer discounted or “preferred” copays in Medicare drug plans.

NCPA members will receive a more detailed pharmacy election analysis and Washington outlook in the Friday, Nov. 7 e-mail edition of Executive Update.

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