In comments submitted to lawmakers and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the National Association of Chain Drug Stores voiced concerns about the Medicare competitive bidding program for durable medical equipment (DME) and proposed rule changes to the HIPAA Privacy, Security and Enforcement Rules under the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH).


NACDS, National Association of Chain Drug Stores, DME, HITECH, durable medical equipment, competitive bidding program, diabetic testing supplies, Medicare, CMS, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, retail pharmacies, drug store, community pharmacists, medical supplies, House of Representatives, Committee on Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health, HHS, Department of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius, HIPAA Privacy, Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act, treatment communications, patient privacy


































































































































































































































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NACDS speaks up on DME, HITECH

September 15th, 2010

ALEXANDRIA, Va. – In comments submitted to lawmakers and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the National Association of Chain Drug Stores voiced concerns about the Medicare competitive bidding program for durable medical equipment (DME) and proposed rule changes to the HIPAA Privacy, Security and Enforcement Rules under the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH).

NACDS on Wednesday issued a statement to the House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health, which held a hearing on the implications for quality, cost and access to Medicare's competitive bidding program for DME.

The association recommended to the subcommittee that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) delay expansion of the bidding program until its impact on Medicare beneficiaries' access to health care services and supplies is fully analyzed. NACDS especially urged caution in expanding the program to include retail pharmacies and diabetic testing supplies.

"To ensure that community pharmacists continue to play a role providing quality health care services and decreasing medical costs, it is vital that Medicare beneficiaries have continued access to medications and supplies through community retail pharmacies," NACDS said in the statement.

NACDS called on CMS to postpoone the beginning of the national mail-order program until an assessment of the Round 1 experience is completed, which the association said will provide the opportunity to identify and address any problems in the program structure and/or apply any best practices identified.

"Pharmacists play a key role in ensuring patients use their supplies in the most proper and meaningful way," NACDS stated.  "Including retail pharmacies in the competitive bidding program will limit the number of options available to beneficiaries. This will also prevent some beneficiaries from continuing the relationship with pharmacists they have been using for years. Beneficiaries should have the continued ability to obtain their medical supplies from pharmacies with which they have a long-standing relationship."

Earlier this week, NACDS submitted comments to HHS secretary Kathleen Sebelius on planned rule modifications to the HITECH Act.

"NACDS urges HHS to remain flexible with how health care providers communicate with their patients," the association stated in a letter to Sebelius.

In the message, NACDS called on HHS to not require authorization for "treatment" communications — that is, communications about an individual patient's medication regimen.

"HHS's proposed notice/disclosure/opt-out approach could have the unintended effect of discouraging some treatment communications, with accompanying loss of associated public health benefits that flow from these treatment communications," the letter said. "The existing provisions of the HIPAA Privacy Rule have worked well in protecting the privacy of pharmacy patients."

NACDS also expressed concern about the continued lack of interoperability of electronic health records between health care providers, including pharmacy.

The association noted that it was highly engaged during the HITECH Act debate in early 2009 and supported the bill's provisions to advance interoperable health information technology (HIT) while protecting patient privacy.  NACDS added that as the administration continues to implement the legislation through the regulatory process, it remains engaged with HHS to help ensure patients receive the most relevant and helpful health information in a way that protects their privacy.

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