Even though it was not invited to the White House health care summit earlier this year, the National Association of Chain Drug Stores continues to work with the Obama administration to ensure that officials understand the role that community pharmacy can play in the nation’s revamped health care system.


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NACDS gets message across at White House

April 20th, 2009

WASHINGTON – Even though it was not invited to the White House health care summit earlier this year, the National Association of Chain Drug Stores continues to work with the Obama administration to ensure that officials understand the role that community pharmacy can play in the nation’s revamped health care system.

According to NACDS vice president of media relations Chrissy Kopple, the association’s work with the president and his advisers began even before Obama took office.

In December, she explains, NACDS met with the Obama transition team to discuss community pharmacy priorities.

Kopple says the association continues to work on a number of fronts to ensure that its message reaches White House health care officials.

Besides its work with the administration, NACDS is also deeply involved on Capitol Hill, working with lawmakers from both parties to explain the pivotal role that community pharmacy can play going forward, she adds.

“We have the ear of the key health care officials, and we are being invited to have a seat at the table,” Kopple says. “We’re highly engaged.”

She points out, for instance, that NACDS vice president of federal government affairs Paul Kelly sits on the stakeholder working groups of the Senate Finance Committee and the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

In that role, Kelly has been able to ensure that pharmacy does not become an afterthought for legislators as they consider ways to reform the country’s health care system, according to Kopple.

Meanwhile, NACDS member companies have been part of four of the five regional health care summits that were held across the country following the White House summit in early March.

Those meetings — in which people and groups with a stake in America’s health care system met with state officials and White House health reform office director Nancy-Ann DeParle — have taken a more localized approach than the summit that the White House held on March 5.

“There is no debate about whether every American ought to have quality affordable health care,” DeParle said during the forum in Des Moines late last month. “The question is how.”

Lawmakers say that input from NACDS and other groups that will be directly affected by the overhaul of the nation’s health care system can lead to meaningful change.

During the summit at the University of Vermont last month, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, who cohosted the forum with Vermont Gov. Jim Douglas, said reforms in his state — which have resulted in a 97% coverage rate — never would have happened if key stakeholders from the private and public sectors had not come to the table to form a broad coalition that is committed to covering everyone.

As the health care debate continues, NACDS will stay on the front lines, Kopple notes.
Later this spring, for instance, NACDS president and chief executive officer Steve Anderson and Carol Kelly, the association’s senior vice president of government affairs and public policy, will meet with DeParle to discuss the industry’s perspective on changes being proposed for the nation’s health care system.

Community pharmacy advocates continue to stress that one of the most beneficial things that community pharmacy can provide is prevention. By working with patients to ensure that they take their medications properly, community pharmacists can help trim health care costs down the line.

That message has gotten through to lawmakers.

At the regional health care summit in Des Moines, for example, Sen. Tom Harkin (D., Iowa) argued that the health care industry needs to be turned on its head, with the focus shifted from treatment toward prevention.

Any expansion of health care that doesn’t change the focus is doomed to failure, Harkin warned.

“If we pass a bill that greatly extends health insurance coverage but does nothing to implement a massive prevention and wellness program, we will have failed the American people,” Harkin said. “Keeping people out of the hospital is the first plan.”

That, Kopple says, is exactly what NACDS and its members want to hear.
And, she notes, it is something the White House and Congress are also stressing.
“We are big supporters of the prevention and wellness funding included in the economic stimulus bill,” Kopple says.

As part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which was passed earlier this year, $650 million is earmarked to pay for evidence-based clinical and community-based prevention and wellness strategies, including the medication management therapy and compliance programs that community pharmacies offer.

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