ARLINGTON, Va. — A group of congressmen have called on House of Representatives and Senate leaders to advance a TRICARE pilot that would enable military veterans and families to opt to fill prescriptions at community pharmacies.
The National Association of Chain Drug Stores said Wednesday that 37 House members have sent a letter to the chairmen and ranking members of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees urging them to support the TRICARE program as part of the FY2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).
The House and Senate must pass an identical version of the NDAA before it can be sent to President Barack Obama for signing into law.
Contained in the House’s version of the bill, the “Pilot Program for Prescription Drug Acquisition Cost Parity in the TRICARE Pharmacy Benefits Program” would allow beneficiaries to choose mail order or a retail pharmacy for their medications, which the House members said would lower program costs.
“TRICARE beneficiaries have seen a number of changes to their prescription drug plan over the last few years, including brand-name maintenance medications being dispensed via mail order or at military treatment facilities (MTFs) and increased prescription co-payments,” the lawmakers wrote in the letter. “These changes have not only impacted beneficiary access and health but have also resulted in shifting health care costs to the Medicare program.”
They called the pilot a “sensible approach” to balancing beneficiary choice and controlling costs because it would, in effect, give the Department of Defense (DoD) access to lower pricing for scripts dispensed at community pharmacies.
“Currently, the DoD is able to purchase medications that are dispensed through mail order and [MTFs] at a much lower costs than for drugs dispensed in the retail setting, in some cases as much as 32% lower. The pilot program would allow the DoD to purchase prescription drugs dispensed in the retail setting at the lowest rate available to the department, thereby eliminating those cost differences,” the congressmen wrote.
“The pilot would also produce savings by lowering the costs paid in administration fees by the DoD for prescription drugs,” they said. “It is believed the DoD currently pays three times as much in per prescription administrative fees to dispense prescriptions through mail than the retail setting. Allowing patients to maintain treatment from their retail pharmacy, including small-business pharmacies, will result in lower overall administrative fees, preserve beneficiary choice and allow access to valuable in-person consultations with their pharmacies.”
NACDS applauded the efforts of Reps. Dave Loebsack (D., Iowa), Buddy Carter (R., Ga.) and Peter Welch (D., Vt.) in getting the letter out to congressional leaders working out differences between the House and Senate versions of the NDAA.
“NACDS appreciates the work of Congressman Dave Loebsack, Congressman Buddy Carter and Congressman Peter Welch to advance this important pilot program,” NACDS president and chief executive officer Steve Anderson said in a statement. “This pilot has the potential to preserve the choice of military families and veterans, to reduce Defense Department costs and to boost patient health by maintaining access to the pharmacist-patient relationship.”