ALEXANDRIA, Va. — Independent community pharmacists gathered this week at the 2015 National Community Pharmacists Association Annual Legislative Conference to advocate for legislative solutions that preserve patients’ ready access to prescription drugs and pharmacy services.
The conference began with a keynote speech from community pharmacist and U.S. Representative Buddy Carter (R., Ga.) and was followed by various panel discussions and policy briefings that enhanced attendees’ understanding of the current governmental landscape and revealed the best strategies going forward, NCPA said Wednesday. There also was a media conference call with Rep. Doug Collins (R., Ga.), who discussed the bill he introduced in the first few days of the 114th U.S. Congress, the MAC Transparency Act (H.R. 244).
“Independent community pharmacies deliver critical prescription services, often to underserved communities, that improve patient outcomes and reduce overall spending,” NCPA chief executive officer B. Douglas Hoey said in a statement. “But substantial problems undermine the viability of these small-business health care providers, threatening patient access to their most trusted and often most convenient pharmacies. That’s why independent community pharmacists from across America came to Washington this week to generate more support for three commonsense legislative solutions.”
Independent pharmacists presented their case for transparency and routine updates for generic drug reimbursements by urging lawmakers to pass H.R. 244 as well as the Ensuring Seniors Access to Local Pharmacies Act (H.R. 793 and S. 1190), which call for an “any willing pharmacy” policy for Medicare Part D preferred pharmacy plans, and the Pharmacy and Medically Underserved Areas Enhancement Act (H.R. 592 and S. 314), which support better utilization of pharmacists’ knowledge and skills by recognizing them as health care providers.
“Why should pharmacies be forced to buy high and sell low, when the technology clearly exists to provide timely updates to generic prescription drug reimbursement benchmarks?” Hoey stated. “Why should pharmacies willing to accept ‘preferred pharmacy’ plan contract terms still be precluded from participating in medically underserved areas? And why should clinically trained medication experts continue to be an untapped resource when they could help an already overwhelmed health care system? Those rhetorical questions each have one obvious answer: the status quo has become untenable, so now is the time to pass ready-made solutions.”
Attendees also heard that more progress has been made with the recently introduced S. 1190, with more than 60 organizations endorsing the bill in a letter to the chair and ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, which has significant health care jurisdiction.
The conference culminated in a rally on Wednesday where attendees heard from Sens. Shelly Moore Capito (R., W.Va.) and Mike Enzi (R., Wyo.), along with Reps. Rodney Davis (R., Ill.) and Doug Collins (R., Ga.) before going to Capitol Hill to meet directly with senators, representatives and their staffs.
“The groundwork has been laid in the U.S. Congress thanks to our members taking time out of their busy schedules to make sure their voices are heard,” Hoey added. “Our legislators should have a better understanding of why action must be taken on the three top issues — transparency, exclusion from preferred networks and provider status — affecting independent community pharmacies and the patients they serve.”