WASHINGTON – The National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS) submitted a statement in response to the U.S. Senate Committee on Finance’s May 19 hearing entitled, “COVID-19 Health Care Flexibilities: Perspectives, Experiences, and Lessons Learned.”
In the statement, NACDS commended the Committee’s work to build better health by considering key flexibilities granted to pharmacies during the Public Health Emergency. As detailed in the statement, pharmacy flexibilities granted under the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act (PREP Act) and by other federal actions underpinned pharmacies’ pivotal role in the nation’s COVID-19 response, augmenting a decade of pandemic planning across the pharmacy industry.
“The nation called on pharmacies to deliver COVID-19 testing, vaccination, and other critical preventive care services to communities during the pandemic. Pharmacies seamlessly rose to the challenge, in large part due to more than a decade of pandemic preparedness and collaborative planning. Importantly, the COVID-19 flexibilities granted to pharmacies were instrumental in driving better health and fostering equity across communities,” NACDS said.
Of note, NACDS described lessons learned from the 2009 H1N1 pandemic, demonstrating how pandemic planning efforts across the pharmacy industry and government paved the way for pharmacies’ response to the COVID-19 crisis – including:
- the establishment of the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program (FRPP), a public-private partnership that greatly expands Americans’ access to COVID-19 vaccines with an important focus on equity;
- the establishment of more than 6,000 community-based COVID-19 testing sites that have processed nearly 10 million samples under a public-private partnership with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS);
- and the continued access to preventive care and essential medications that pharmacies ensured patients maintained throughout the pandemic.
Additionally, NACDS noted the critical actions taken by Congress, HHS and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) that accelerated the availability of pharmacy-based COVID-19 testing locations and cleared the pathway for vaccinations at pharmacies throughout the pandemic.
“Federal actions taken under the PREP Act leveraged pharmacies to provide enhanced public access to COVID-19 testing, COVID-19 vaccines, and routine and catchup vaccines for those 3-18 years old. Such actions, along with Congress requiring health insurers to cover COVID-19 testing and vaccination costs without out-of-pocket expenses, were monumental,” NACDS said. “Collectively, these actions unleashed pharmacy teams from onerous and unnecessary federal and state barriers that have historically prohibited them from providing such services to populations more broadly. These actions also removed cost barriers for patients.”
Now, NACDS is urging Congress not to roll back preparedness, and to instead take action to turn the temporary flexibilities granted to pharmacies into permanent pharmacy authority and payment mechanisms that will help sustain Americans’ access to pharmacy care beyond the pandemic:
“NACDS urges Congress to retain and build on the existing flexibilities to implement permanent pharmacy authority and payment mechanisms. Doing so would help Americans continue reaping the benefits of care services at pharmacies they know and trust into the future.”