Despite President Obama’s wish to have both chambers of Congress pass health care reform bills before the start of the August recess, it appeared almost certain that legislators would return home without acting.
Even as committees in the House and Senate were reporting progress toward forging a compromise on such contentious issues as cost, the scope of employer mandates and how an optional federal insurance program would function, opinion polls revealed increasing doubts among voters.
The lack of a clear direction on health care in Washington sets the stage for intense discussions between lawmakers and constituents in their districts during the next month, and creates a meaningful opportunity for community pharmacy to ensure that its priorities are addressed in whatever reform legislation that finally emerges.
Extensive grassroots involvement in shaping health care policy may have been something that the administration didn’t want to risk, but it provides pharmacy advocates with a chance to influence senators and representatives in an arena where they don’t face the same hurdle — the accumulated clout of other health care stakeholders that have for many years devoted more money, time and other resources to lobbying efforts — that they face in the nation’s capital.
Community pharmacy has foot soldiers on the ground in every congressional district. There has never been a more critical moment for the profession to mobilize them. Pharmacy needs to remind legislators of the trust and respect it commands among patients, and the untapped potential it possesses to improve outcomes and help reduce overall health care costs. The time to act is now.