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Reform takes center stage at Pharmacy & Tech Conference

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Executives stressed continued industry engagement in the brewing debate on health care reform at the National Association of Chain Drug Stores' 2009 Pharmacy & Technology Conference in Boston.

NACDS CEO Steve Anderson said the industry is getting the attention of lawmakers in making its case on a spate of issues, while chairman Andy Giancamilli pointed to pharmacy's track record as an innovator in health care.


BOSTON — Executives stressed continued industry engagement in the brewing debate on health care reform at the National Association of Chain Drug Stores’ 2009 Pharmacy & Technology Conference in Boston.

Drug store chains can play a pivotal role in limiting costs and improving care as well as spurring innovation in the nation’s health care system, they noted.

NACDS president and chief executive officer Steve Anderson explained how effective a highly engaged membership can be in affecting legislative and regulatory outcomes. He cited the NACDS Principles of Healthcare Reform, enhanced industry visibility through media interviews, congressional testimony and the first annual RxImpact Day on Capitol Hill as recent successes.

"NACDS and our allies achieved legislative victories that are really incremental reforms," Anderson stated in Monday morning’s Business Program at the event. "For example, we delivered a delay in the Medicaid pharmacy reimbursement cuts … gained prompt payment requirements for Medicare Part D claims … froze retail co-payments in the military’s TRICARE healthcare plans … created incentives to spur adoption of e-prescribing in Medicare … secured the allowance of electronic log books to track pseudoephedrine sales while still allowing paper systems … and achieved an Internet pharmacy law that distinguishes between rogue web sites and legitimate, state-licensed pharmacies."

The industry, he added, also achieved victories in the stimulus bill, including $2 billion in grants and loans to advance health information technology and a temporary hike in federal funding for state Medicaid programs, totaling $86.6 billion.

Now the main task at hand is health care reform, which will require more of the same sharp focus from the chain drug industry, according to Anderson.

"There are three key pharmacy issues very much in play," he explained. "These include reforming Medicaid pharmacy reimbursement, expanding the availability of medication therapy management (MTM) and exempting pharmacies that sell durable medical equipment (DME) from the redundant and access-threatening requirements of accreditation and surety bonds."

One of the most critical priorities for the industry, he emphasized, is to reach a solution on the Deficit Reduction Act (DRA) Medicaid pharmacy reimbursement cuts under the average manufacturer price model (AMP), which would reimburse pharmacies below-cost for many generic drugs.

“The regulations to implement these cuts have been written. But they remain blocked by two mammoth victories: a legislative delay secured last year, and a court injunction, which was secured through a lawsuit by NACDS and NCPA [National Community Pharmacists Association]," Anderson said. "Every day these cuts are not in effect, $5.5 million in pharmacy cuts are prevented. From January 1, 2008, through September 30, 2009, $3.5 billion in access-threatening cuts will have been avoided.

"But throughout, we have emphasized the need for a long-term legislative solution — an against-the-odds, uphill battle against the DRA," he noted.

In the previous day’s Business Program, NACDS chairman Andy Giancamilli called for policymakers to recognize pharmacy’s sway in the current health care system and the reform process through its ongoing innovations in services, technology and operations.

During his speech, Giancamilli — who also is CEO for Katz Group North America, which operates Snyders Drug Stores in the United States and Rexall pharmacies in Canada — touched on such industry innovations as electronic prescribing, electronic health record management, MTM, and health and wellness solutions.

"The profession and the industry of pharmacy that I know is one that is all about innovation, and that should be empowered to help deliver the accessible, affordable, high-quality, patient-centric care that they [lawmakers] are pursuing," Giancamilli said.

“In my view, pharmacy, researchers, manufacturers and related industries have been in the improvement business since birth," he explained. "And through healthy competition, appropriate collaboration and always a focus on making peoples’ lives better, this trajectory of improvement has given us transformational reform."

Also giving his take on health care reform Sunday was former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D., S.D.), a national policy expert on health care. Daschle provided a health care reform reality check and shed light on the process surrounding President Barack Obama’s and Congress’ goal of reforming the U.S. health care system.



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