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Lawmakers back CMS proposal on preferred pharmacy networks
February 12th, 2014
ALEXANDRIA, Va. – Members of Congress have contacted the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to express support of an agency proposal on preferred pharmacy networks in Medicare Part D prescription drug plans for 2015.
The National Community Pharmacists Association said Wednesday that Reps. Mike Rogers (R., Ala.) and Lynn Westmoreland (R., Ga.) have sent letters to CMS saying they back the agency's proposal to allow any willing pharmacy to offer a plan's lowest, or preferred, cost-sharing to give seniors more choice and to foster greater competition among pharmacies.
"I was encouraged to hear that the proposed rule for Part D dealt with many of the concerns that [community pharmacists] shared with me," Rogers wrote. "Not only were these community pharmacies not allowed to even try and compete with lower co-pays that larger stores can offer, but many seniors signed up for these plans not realizing they would no longer be able to continue using their community pharmacy after signing up."
Westmoreland noted in his letter that Congress and the Executive Branch need to ensure that small pharmacies are able to compete on a level playing field.
"Recently, I have heard from community pharmacy owners in regards to problems they are encountering from being excluded from these preferred networks," he wrote. "These networks were created to increase competition in the marketplace and, ultimately, save the government money. But the reality is that many small-business pharmacies have been excluded from these networks, and that has resulted in much strain on their patients and their bottom lines."
Both lawmakers represent rural communities and noted that independent pharmacies often serve such areas, where national chain pharmacies may not have stores.
"We commend these lawmakers for voicing their support on behalf of their constituents for the commonsense enhancements that Medicare has proposed for drug plans next year," commented B. Douglas Hoey, chief executive officer of NCPA. "Patients will benefit from more choice and competition among pharmacies if CMS' proposal is made final. Independent community pharmacies deserve the opportunity to match the contract terms and conditions, including pricing, of 'preferred' pharmacies. As Medicare officials have noted, this is 'the best way to encourage price competition and lower costs in the Part D program.' "
Last March, 31 Congressmen sent a letter to CMS to express concerns over preferred networks in Medicare Part D. In particular, NCPA noted, the lawmakers stated, "we fear these networks could lead to a decrease in access to quality care and threaten the survival of community pharmacies" and further demanded a response from CMS. Shortly thereafter, the agency received a similar letter from 16 U.S. senators. CMS subsequently issued the proposed rule open until March 7, 2014, for public comment.