ALEXANDRIA, Va. — Retail pharmacy groups welcomed a couple of key items for the industry in the so-called "jobs bill" unveiled this week by Senate leaders.
The National Association of Chain Drug Stores and the National Community Pharmacists Association on Tuesday noted that the legislation includes provisions that would continue a federal funding hike for Medicaid and ease accreditation requirements for pharmacies selling durable medical equipment (DME) to Medicare customers.
"By helping to maintain access to pharmacy patient care, these provisions will improve lives and help to reduce long-term health costs that result when patients stray from the necessary treatments, such as those associated with chronic disease," commented NACDS president and chief executive officer Steve Anderson. "NACDS has urged the advancement of these measures and will continue work for their passage and enactment so that patients can benefit from their pharmacies’ role as the face of neighborhood health care."
One of the bills includes a six-month extension of the temporary increase in the federal medical assistance percentage (FMAP), which will maintain federal funding for state Medicaid programs at the current higher level through the end of June 2011. The temporary increase, originally passed in early 2009, will expire at the end of 2010 without enactment of an extension.
"The bill would extend for six months the 2009 stimulus bill’s enhanced federal ‘match’ in the Medicaid program. During these hard economic times, states continue to struggle to pay their share for Medicaid services both now and as they plan for next year," stated NCPA executive vice president and CEO Bruce Roberts. "Independent community pharmacies are the backbone of the Medicaid drug benefit, serving a higher rate of the program’s patients than other pharmacies. This funding will allow local pharmacists to meet important health needs, rather than sending patients to costlier emergency rooms. We supported its inclusion in President Obama’s 2011 budget, and we support it now."
The jobs bill also provides to many pharmacies a conditional exemption from the accreditation requirement for Medicare DME providers. NACDS and NCPA have noted that the accreditation is duplicative and unnecessary given state licensing requirements for pharmacy, along with the many regulations that apply to pharmacy practice.
"The legislation would preserve seniors’ access to essential health products and end a long and exhaustive ordeal for community pharmacists struggling with Medicare’s DME, prosthetics, orthotics and supplies accreditation requirement," according to Roberts.
"Pharmacies that have been providing DME, such as diabetes testing supplies, for at least 24 months and at 5% or less of their overall prescription sales would be exempted," he explained. "Pharmacists are already state-licensed, and 17 other types of state-regulated health care providers have been exempted from this regulation. This provision would allow many local pharmacies to stay in the Medicare DME program while sparing accredited pharmacies from repeating this costly, time-consuming process every three years."
NACDS noted that next week it will host the Second Annual RxImpact Day on Capitol Hill to give pharmacy executives, pharmacists, pharmacy students and state pharmacy association representatives the opportunity to make their voices heard in Washington on such critical industry issues.
To be held March 10 and 11, the event will bring more than 200 advocates from across the nation to Washington to educate lawmakers about the importance of pro-patient, pro-pharmacy policy and key issues related to health care reform, NACDS said.
And this spring, NCPA plans to hold its National Legislation and Government Affairs Conference. Scheduled for May 10 to 12, the conference is designed to give pharmacists a chance to meet with and hear from Capitol Hill decision-makers and policy experts to discuss pivotal issues affecting community pharmacy.