Drug chains ask for delay in DME competitive bid rule

Jim Frederick

WASHINGTON —The chain pharmacy lobby is urging Congress to delay a plan by federal health officials to force retail pharmacies to submit competitive bids in order to sell durable medical equipment, including vitally needed diabetic supplies used by millions of Americans.

In an urgently worded written testimony to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health, the National Association of Chain Drug Stores warned that imposing competitive-bidding requirements on retail pharmacies could make it much harder for diabetic patients to obtain glucose test strips and other needed supplies. The result, the group warned lawmakers, could jeopardize diabetes treatment and monitoring, driving up health costs and adding to the nation’s health-cost burdens.

NACDS’ testimony came during a hearing Sept. 15 on Medicare’s competitive bidding program for durable medical equipment, prosthetics, orthotics and supplies. The pharmacy group asked Congress to freeze a plan by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to expand competitive bidding—which has undergone “Round 1” pilot testing in several markets around the United States—until the impact of the program on Medicare beneficiaries’ access to healthcare services and supplies is fully analyzed.

In particular, NACDS urged caution in expanding the program to include retail pharmacies and diabetic testing supplies. “To ensure that community pharmacists continue to play a role providing quality healthcare services and decreasing medical costs, it is vital that Medicare beneficiaries have continued access to medications and supplies through community retail pharmacies,” NACDS said.

“CMS has repeatedly stated that it plans to expand the competitive bidding program into the retail pharmacy market,” the group testified. “However, expansion of the…program to the retail setting will limit beneficiary access, possibly resulting in lower-quality services, leading to increased medical costs. This is especially important should the program be expanded into the area of diabetic testing supplies,” the organization added. “Any disruption in the ability of individuals to receive their diabetic testing supplies could result in increased illness and increased medical costs, both of which would be avoidable if beneficiaries continue to have access to their supplies at the retail level.”

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