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NCPA to Congress: Take action on 'any willing pharmacy' bill
August 7th, 2014
ALEXANDRIA, Va. – The National Community Pharmacists Association has called on congressional committee leaders to hold hearings on legislation supporting an "any willing pharmacy" policy for participation in preferred pharmacy networks in Medicare Part D prescription drug plans.
NCPA said Thursday that in letters to the leaders of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee, the association noted that the Ensuring Seniors Access to Local Pharmacies Act (H.R. 4577) has garnered the support of 59 co-sponsors, including 12 members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. NCPA also reiterated its request for a congressional hearing on preferred networks.
And in a separate letter to the leadership of the Senate Finance Committee, NCPA requested a hearing for after Congress' August recess. Both letters emphasized the growth over the last four years of preferred networks that exclude participation of independent pharmacies.
H.R. 4577 would allow "any willing pharmacy" located in a medically underserved area to participate in all Part D drug plan networks, including a plan's discounted or "preferred" network. The association has endorsed the legislation, introduced by Reps. Morgan Griffith (R., Va.) and Peter Welch (D., Vt.).
Under the "any willing pharmacy" standard, any community pharmacy would be allowed to participate as preferred pharmacy provider if it's willing to accept the contract terms offered by a drug plan. Currently in preferred pharmacy drug plans, most pharmacies can participate as network pharmacies to meet Medicare's geographic access requirements, but only a limited number of pharmacies are designated as preferred providers and are authorized to offer the plan's lowest advertised co-payments.
"Most stakeholders would agree that Part D has been a success, but with any law comes unintended consequences. And we know that Congress did not intend to create access problems or limit choice for Medicare patients who depend on the face-to-face counseling services that independent pharmacies have offered them for many years," NCPA chief executive officer B. Douglas Hoey wrote in the letters. "Again, we respectfully request that you schedule an oversight hearing after the Congressional Work Period has concluded to examine ways to ensure that small-business owner pharmacies have the same opportunities to compete in the Medicare Part D program as do larger, corporate pharmacies."
Consumers also have expressed support for "any willing pharmacy" legislation. In a national poll last month of 1,027 likely voters conducted by public opinion research firm Penn Schoen Berland, 76% of respondents said they support H.R. 4577. That level of support also was consistent across the variables of age, living environment, gender and political party.
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