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Community pharmacy members collaborate to take Medicaid issues to Washington

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ALEXANDRIA, Va. In a strong showing, more than 70 members of community pharmacy, including executive and pharmacy company representatives, visited with members of Congress Wednesday to advocate on behalf of community pharmacy.

The effort, a collaboration between the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, the Food Marketing Institute and the National Community Pharmacists Association, addressed a number of Medicaid access issues, including average manufacturer price and the impending implementation of tamper-proof prescription paper.

In July, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services issued a final rule on reimbursements that sent the pharmacy community reeling. The final regulations set a new upper limit on what the federal government will pay states in matching funds for generics dispensed to Medicaid patients. The regulations also redefine the price of those drugs, based on the AMP they command in the open market, as determined by CMS. The change to an AMP-based formula will cost pharmacies.

At the time, Steve Anderson, president and chief executive officer of NACDS, called it “simply unacceptable.” John Tilley, president of the NCPA, called it “a travesty.”

The policy is scheduled to take effect in January 2008, triggering $8 billion in cuts from Medicaid pharmacy reimbursement for generic drugs, requiring pharmacies to sell some drugs at a loss. If pharmacies have to absorb these deep cuts, it could force them to alter the way they care for not only Medicaid patients, but all their patients, NACDS claimed.

“Pharmacists, who are also constituents of Senate and House leaders, came to Capitol Hill this week to warn that America is on the precipice of a healthcare crisis if the disastrous Medicaid reimbursement rule isn’t fixed,” said Bruce Roberts, NCPA executive vice president and chief executive officer. “We need the House to pass H.R. 3140 and the Senate to pass S.1951, which both address the issue, so they can be reconciled and signed into law before the year ends.”

“Millions of Americans depend on supermarket pharmacies for medicines and dietary guidance that promote health and well-being,” said FMI President and CEO Tim Hammonds, noting that FMI members operate more than 19,000 pharmacies. “The government should not put community pharmacies in a position where inadequate reimbursements force them to choose between keeping their doors open or denying benefits to their Medicaid patients. We need immediate corrective action. Community pharmacies deliver needed medications to Medicaid beneficiaries for the government, and this critical program cannot survive without them.”

The other main topic on the agenda is what the organizations are claiming is the all-too-soon implementation of tamper-proof prescription pads, set to go into effect on Oct. 1. The associations have claimed that there is insufficient time for physicians to be notified of the new requirement and obtain these prescription pads. If a prescription is not written on tamper-resistant paper, the new law puts the pharmacist in the position of potentially having to deny prescriptions to Medicaid patients.

“Now is crunch time for the American pharmacy and the patients they serve,” said Steve Anderson, NACDS president and chief executive officer. “These policies are not a result of a pharmacist’s work but rather a lack of understanding of their work. With the aid of our active members, we are hopeful that we can maintain momentum for H.R. 3140 and S.1951, mitigate the negative impacts on pharmacies, and continue providing the access to healthcare services and prescription drugs that patients expect and trust.”

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