WASHINGTON A sizeable group of lawmakers in the U.S. House of Representatives today announced the formation of a new, bipartisan task force to spearhead the interests of community pharmacies and the patients they serve.
The new group, called the Congressional Community Pharmacy Coalition, is charged with preserving patient access to community pharmacies, according to the National Community Pharmacists Association, “by restoring fairness and pragmatism to a health care system that devalues these small business owners who often reside in underserved rural and urban communities.” NCPA, for its part, was actively involved in the coalition’s formation.
Co-chairing the group are four members of Congress who often voice support for pharmacy’s interests: Reps. Marion Berry, D-Ark., Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., Jerry Moran, R-Kan., and Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y. A total of 27 House members agreed to sign on as inaugural members.
Coalition lawmakers are pursuing several bills in the 110th Congress to ease the burdens imposed on pharmacy retailers by slow payments for Medicare Part D prescriptions, a shift in Medicaid generic prescription payments to a new, lower reimbursement formula, and other threats. Among the bills coalition leaders have introduced or co-sponsored are H.R.1474, the Fair and Speedy Treatment of Medicare Prescription Drug Act; H.R.3140, the Saving Our Community Pharmacies Act; and H.R.971, the Community Pharmacy Fairness Act.
Berry, McMorris Rodgers, Moran and Weiner announced the new advocacy group at a teleconference press briefing hosted by NCPA today. Among the issues they addressed: the slow reimbursement of Medicare Part D claims; the pending cut in Medicaid generic prescription drug reimbursement, and the inability to negotiate reasonable contracts with pharmacy benefit managers.
“The deck is stacked against community pharmacies,” said Weiner. “This Coalition wants to level the playing field for our neighborhood pharmacists with the big chains of the world by providing prompt payment under Medicare Part D, a fair reimbursement rate under Medicaid and better negotiating rights for our essential community pharmacies.”
“The reality is that many patients will suffer if Congress doesn’t step up to create a reasonable business environment for community pharmacies to operate in,” said McMorris Rodgers. “That’s why I view the Congressional Community Pharmacy Coalition as being more than a legislative group dedicated to advancing common-sense small business measures, but as championing the interests of their patients in communities across the country who are seeing their access to these trusted health care professionals threatened.”
NCPA executive vice president and chief executive officer Bruce Roberts praised the group’s formation. “The cavalry has arrived to restore the way community pharmacies ought to be treated,” he said. “The Congressional Community Pharmacy Coalition has put partisanship aside to recognize that these small business owners are a critical cog in the wheel that keeps the American people healthy and our economy vibrant.”