ALEXANDRIA, Va. — The National Community Pharmacists Association has applauded lawmakers for legislation that aims to remove diabetes supplies provided by small pharmacies from the bidding program for Medicare Part B durable medical equipment.
NCPA praised Reps. Peter Welch (D., Vt.) and Mike Rogers (R., Mich.) for introducing the Medicare Access to Diabetes Supplies Act, which would remove such items as diabetes test strips, monitors, lancets and glucose control solutions furnished by small community pharmaces from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ (CMS) final competitive bidding program for Medicare Part B durable medical equipment, prosthetics, orthotics and supplies (DMEPOS).
The association said small community pharmacies are classified by the Small Business Administration as having annual sales of $7 million dollars or less.
"This legislation allows seniors to continue obtaining essential medical supplies like diabetes testing strips from their local community pharmacy," Bruce Roberts, NCPA executive vice president and chief executive officer, said in a statement.
"The current competitive bidding program favors larger health care providers at the expense of smaller ones like community pharmacies," Roberts noted. "As a result, many seniors who get these supplies from community pharmacies could be forced to travel many miles or go through mail order without the face-to-face consultation that helps maximize health outcomes."
Competitive bidding requires DMEPOS suppliers to submit a bid to be awarded a contract, and Medicare uses the bids to determine payments. Previous rounds of competitive bidding were problematic enough that Congress intervened to halt, reshape and restart the process again, according to NCPA. One of the primary concerns was that small suppliers such as community pharmacies — particularly those in underserved rural and urban areas — would be underbid and ultimately forced out of the program by larger suppliers that have no local presence but could always offer Medicare a better price, the association said.
NCPA reported that 73% of community pharmacies sell DMEPOS, but the products make up just a small fraction of their total sales. As a result, many of these pharmacies limit the amount of DMEPOS they sell or stop offering the products altogether, rather than completing the time-consuming and expensive competitive bidding process — a situation that undercuts seniors’ access to key products like diabetes supplies as well as their relationships with pharmacists, the association explained.
"Reps. Welch and Rogers offer a common-sense legislative solution by exempting pharmacies of a certain size from this requirement, which is why we call on Congress to roll up its sleeves and pass it as soon as possible," Roberts added.