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NCPA endorses bill to expand preferred Rx networks
May 7th, 2014
ALEXANDRIA, Va. – The National Community Pharmacists Association is endorsing federal legislation that aims to expand preferred pharmacy networks in underserved areas for members of Medicare Part D prescription drug benefit plans.
NCPA said Wednesday that the Ensuring Seniors Access to Local Pharmacies Act (H.R. 4577), introduced by Reps. Morgan Griffith (R., Va.) and Peter Welch (D., Vt.), 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 legislation would give many seniors a wider choice of pharmacy in their Medicare drug plan, NCPA noted.
"We commend Reps. Griffith and Welch for their leadership and moving forward with the first legislation to address 'preferred' networks in Medicare. NCPA's top priority is ensuring that every community pharmacy has the opportunity to participate as 'preferred' pharmacies in Medicare drug plans. This bipartisan legislation is a critical first step toward that end," NPCA chief executive officer B. Douglas Hoey said in a statement.
Earlier this year, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), in its proposed regulation for 2015 Part D plans, had called for allowing any pharmacies to participate as preferred pharmacy providers as long as they are willing to accept the contract terms offered by a drug plan. However, in March, CMS decided to drop the "any willing pharmacy" provision from its proposed regulation.
Currently under preferred pharmacy drug benefit 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 and are authorized to offer the plan’s lowest advertised co-pays, according to NCPA. The association also has pointed out that the rising number of preferred pharmacy plans is challenging for seniors in rural areas, given that independent or regional drug stores are often the nearest pharmacy and the closest preferred pharmacy may be 20 miles or more away.
"NCPA is proud to support H.R. 4577. We will continue to work diligently toward the enactment of 'any willing pharmacy' legislation in both houses of Congress and to urge Medicare to support this policy," Hoey added. "It is vital for all community pharmacists to take grassroots action to express their support for this legislation."
NCPA noted that, earlier this year, more than 30 members of Congress and an array of consumer groups and unions voiced their support for applying an "any willing pharmacy" policy to Medicare drug plans. Those organizations included the Alliance for Retired Americans; American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME); California Health Advocates; Center for Medicare Advocacy Inc.; Families USA; Medicare Rights Center; National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare; National Council on Aging; National Rural Health Association; National Senior Citizens Law Center; and SEIU.