Advocacy groups support House pharmacy bill

ALEXANDRIA, Va. With the House of Representatives scheduled to vote later today on H.R. 6331, a health care bill introduced by Ways and Means chairman Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., community pharmacy is throwing the full weight of its influence behind the bill's passage.

While the bill, titled the Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act of 2008, closely mirrors S. 3101–which failed to receive enough votes last week to achieve cloture–a third provision was added that is also critical to ensuring continued patient access to community pharmacies. In addition to speeding up the reimbursements for Medicare Part D claims and delaying cuts to Medicaid generic prescription drug reimbursement; it includes a delay in the flawed Medicare durable medical equipment, prosthetics and supplies competitive bidding program.

In a letter to Rangel and House Energy and Commerce Committee chairman John Dingell, D-Mich., National Association of Chain Drug Stores president and chief executive officer Steve Anderson acknowledged them for their commitment to pharmacy issues and applauded the decision to include language in the bill to provide a delay in the implementation of the competitive bidding program. “This delay will provide the time necessary to ensure that Medicare beneficiaries fully understand the program and that there are a sufficient number of suppliers to ensure that access to durable medical equipment such as diabetes supplies is not disrupted,” the letter noted.

“The House of Representatives can improve America’s health care system by voting for H.R. 6331. The bill strengthens patient access to the valuable services the nation’s 23,000 independent community pharmacies provide patients by addressing three fundamental problems,” stated Bruce Roberts, executive vice president and chief executive officer of the National Community Pharmacists Association. “We are very grateful to Speaker Pelosi, D-Calif., Majority Leader Hoyer, D-Md., Chairman Rangel and Chairman Dingell for not only moving expeditiously on these issues, but for also adding the DME provision to this bill. Everyone should have the same goal, which is keeping patients healthy by having a system based on common-sense policies. H.R. 6331 goes a long way towards making that vision a reality.”

“We thank you for your leadership on these issues and pledge to work with you to see that this bill is enacted into law this year,” stated NACDS’ letter. “By delaying billions in Medicaid payment cuts to retail pharmacies—the so-called AMP cuts—your bill will prevent pharmacies from facing the untenable situation of having to accept below cost payments when serving low income patients.

“As we expect the bill to come before the House tonight for a vote, we encourage passage of this legislation to help ensure that our nation’s retail pharmacies can continue serving millions of Americans every day.”

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