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Retail Rx groups: Bill penalizes TRICARE patients
May 31st, 2011
ALEXANDRIA, Va. – The approval of a military budget bill paves the way for the Defense Department to steer TRICARE patients to get prescription drugs via mail order instead of at retail pharmacies, according to the National Association of Chain Drug Stores and the National Community Pharmacists Association.
NACDS and NCPA said late last week that the House of Representatives passed the 2012 Defense Authorization Bill without including a freeze on co-payments for retail prescription drugs for TRICARE patients, which has occurred in previous years. Without the freeze, the two retail pharmacy groups noted, the Defense Department can proceed with its proposal to create further incentives to drive TRICARE beneficiaries to use mail order.
TRICARE is the health benefits program for U.S. armed forces personnel and their families.
NACDS and NCPA said the exclusion of the freeze on co-pays in the legislation gives TRICARE patients less choice in where they obtain prescription drugs.
"We certainly understand the need to reduce TRICARE costs. However, further penalizing TRICARE patients who use their community pharmacy is not the most effective way to reduce prescription drug spending in the program," Steve Anderson, NACDS president and chief executive officer, and B. Douglas Hoey, NCPA executive vice president and CEO said in a joint statement.
"Instead, a much greater emphasis should be placed on increasing the generic drug dispensing rate, regardless of where a prescription is dispensed. Increasing the use of generic drugs is a proven cost saver, and community pharmacies dispense generics 72% of the time — significantly higher than mail order," Anderson and Hoey stated. "For example, IMS Health estimates that, in the Medicaid program, just a 1% difference in generic dispensing rates can produce $500 million in savings nationally."
In April, NACDS and NCPA applauded legislation, the Military Retirees Health Care Protection Act (H.R. 1092), that would prohibit hikes in retail pharmacy co-pays under TRICARE. And about a month earlier, the two associations sent a letter to Senate Armed Services Committee chairman Carl Levin (D., Mich.) that urged him to re-examine the notion of encouraging TRICARE beneficiaries to use mail-order pharmacy.
"NACDS and NCPA remain committed to working with Congress to maintain TRICARE beneficiary choice and increase generic utilization as lawmakers work to pass a final version of the bill," Anderson and Hoey commented.