Industry leaders look ahead at NACDS Week in New York
At the start of the month the National Association of Chain Drug Stores concluded a series of successful events in the nation’s economic and cultural capital.
The much anticipated annual gathering, known as NACDS Week in New York, brings together leaders from the diverse constituents that comprise the chain pharmacy industry to take stock as the current year winds down and begin laying the groundwork for the one about to begin.
The capstone of the week was the NACDS Foundation Dinner, a fund-raising event designed to support the foundation’s work, which encompasses evidence-based research that advances patient care, pharmacy education, scholarships and grants to charitable groups that enhance health outcomes. The dinner, which featured an appearance by Seth Meyers, host of the eponymous late-night talk show on NBC TV and a former star of Saturday Night Live, raised a record $1.94 million.
The days leading up to the dinner were devoted to meetings — of the NACDS board of directors, the association’s Retail Advisory Board, various committees, and the foundation board — as well as countless interactions between trading partners in both business and social settings.
The week showed NACDS at its best, serving as the nexus for an industry that plays an essential part in meeting the health care and daily living needs of American consumers. Those who have a stake in chain pharmacy should recognize the value they derive from involvement in the association, value that is sure to grow in light of the uncertainties created by the wave of political change that swept over the United States with the election of Donald Trump as president and Republicans gaining control of both houses of Congress.
Unlike some trade groups where priorities change as quickly as the chairman or the composition of the board, NACDS maintains a steady course in pursuit of well-defined objectives. Since Steve Anderson became president and chief executive officer of the association almost a decade ago, he and the board have kept the association focused on three areas — government affairs, communications and member services — deemed vital for the success of an industry whose well-being is closely tied to public policy and its influence on developments in the private sector.
NACDS’ considerable success in those spheres is fueled by the work of a talented staff and the involvement of high-level executives from the retail companies that make up the association’s membership. Martin Otto, chief merchant and chief financial officer at H-E-B and current NACDS chairman, exemplifies that commitment. Characterized by Anderson as the association’s challenger in chief, Otto has encouraged members to think broadly about problems confronting the nation’s economy and health care system, and what chain pharmacy can do to help alleviate them.
NACDS and its members will have their work cut out for them when Trump and the 115th Congress take office in January. The people the president-elect has selected to be secretary of Health and Human Services and administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services portend that the status quo in health care that has emerged under the Affordable Care Act will be aggressively challenged.
Tom Price, the Republican Congressman from Georgia whom Trump has named to head HHS, has been one of the fiercest critics of the ACA since its passage in 2010. An orthopedic surgeon by training, Price early on crafted a bill mandating the complete repeal and replacement of the landmark law. Among its many provisions, the free market-oriented bill would undo the expansion of Medicaid coverage, slash government subsidies that help people buy health coverage, and end the requirement for insurers to provide prescription drug coverage and many other services.
Seema Verma, Trump’s nominee to oversee CMS, is a health care policy consultant best known for helping Mike Pence, then governor of Indiana and now vice president-elect, win a waiver from the Obama administration that allowed the state to require some Medicaid beneficiaries to contribute to the cost of their care. Like Pence, she is expected to seek a reduction of government’s role in health care.
Whatever the fate of the Trump administration’s policy proposals, the fight over health care is sure to be tumultuous, creating serious threats as well as opportunities for health care providers. Chain pharmacy operators are fortunate to have an advocate in Washington as focused, dedicated and accomplished as NACDS at this pivotal moment.