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NCPA calls on Senate leader to back DME Rx exemption

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ALEXANDRIA, Va. — The National Community Pharmacists Association is urging Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid to support an accreditation exemption for pharmacies selling Medicare Part B durable medical equipment before the March 1 enforcement deadline.

NCPA said Wednesday that last week Sens. Max Baucus (D., Mont.) and Charles Grassley (R., Iowa) introduced their bipartisan "jobs" bill, which contained health care provisions that included the accreditation exemption for pharmacies selling durable medical equipment, prosthetics, orthotics and supplies (DMEPOS). However, the association noted, Reid (D., Nev.) opted for a smaller package that excluded all the health care provisions.

As a result, NCPA said, many seniors could lose access to critical medical supplies like diabetes testing strips, since nearly 23,000 independent community pharmacies facing the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ (CMS) March 1 accreditation deadline.

Bruce Roberts, NCPA executive vice president and chief executive officer, on Wednesday sent a letter to Reid about the need to find a legislative solution to the issue in a timely manner, considering the fast-approaching deadline.

"We appreciate your strong support for community pharmacy as demonstrated through the inclusion of key pharmacy-supported provisions in the Senate-passed Health Care Reform bill. We now face a critical juncture for one of those issues and ask that you pass a permanent pharmacy DME accreditation exemption by March 1," Roberts stated in the letter, also sent to Baucus, Grassley and Sen. Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.).

"The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is starting to revoke the billing numbers for pharmacies who have not met the DME accreditation requirements. You have recognized that these burdensome requirements mean that many pharmacies will not be able to provide these important products to Medicare beneficiaries," Roberts pointed out. "CMS has unfairly targeted pharmacies for meeting these requirements while exempting 17 other similarly state-regulated health care professionals."

Roberts explained that under a proposed Senate Finance Committee compromise supported by NCPA, pharmacies would be exempt from DME accreditation requirements until January 2011. After that, pharmacies that have billed Medicare for more than 24 months and have Medicare DME billings that are 5% or less than their total prescription sales would be eligible for an exemption, he said in the letter.

"Exempting pharmacies that meet these criteria will make these products more accessible to Medicare beneficiaries, especially those in rural areas," Roberts wrote. "This approach also strikes an important balance of providing patients with the health care products they need, while protecting the integrity of the Medicare program."

Last week, both the NCPA and the National Association of Chain Drug Stores applauded the inclusion of the DME accreditation exemption for pharmacies in the Senate jobs bill.


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