FMAP extension can aid people, businesses across the board

WHAT IT MEANS AND WHY IT’S IMPORTANT Once again, the Democratic Party and the Obama administration are taking point on a relief plan for long-term or recently unemployed and underemployed Americans hit hard by the recession and the still-dismal job market. But their efforts to extend the program that provides additional emergency Medicaid funding to the states could provide additional relief to pharmacies that serve Medicaid patients, too.

(THE NEWS: NACDS hails move forward on FMAP extension. For the full story, click here)

By a slim margin, the Senate voted Aug. 4 to break a filibuster on an appropriations bill that would extend the emergency funding program, and move the bill forward for a full vote. If passed by the Senate, the measure still would need final approval in both the House and Senate before heading to President Obama for his signature.

The funding program is called FMAP, which stands for federal medical assistance percentage. Created under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act signed into law last year, it provided $86.6 billion in additional funding for states staggered by the recession and the resulting loss of tax revenues, allowing them to continue providing their share of health benefits to lower-income people through such programs as Medicaid.

It was a common-sense lifeline, considering the crushing burden the financial meltdown put on the states, and on tens of millions of poor and out-of-work Americans. But FMAP, as currently written, is set to expire at the end of the 2010 calendar year. And it’s become quite clear that states will continue to struggle with the aftermath of this recession — including the ongoing loss of tax revenues and drastic funding shortfalls — long after that expiration date.

For both economic and altruistic reasons, the community pharmacy industry squarely has come down on the side of extending the emergency funding program on behalf of hard-hit states and their Medicaid beneficiaries. In June, five national pharmacy and retail groups — the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, National Community Pharmacists Association, American Pharmacists Association, Food Marketing Institute and National Alliance of State Pharmacy Associations — made a written plea to Senate leaders, asking them to support a six-month extension of FMAP, through June 30, 2011.

In the words of NACDS, “The Medicaid funds in this bill will help states to ensure that low-income patients maintain access to vital health care, such as medications and pharmacy services.” What’s more, said NACDS president and CEO Steve Anderson, “Anything that hinders pharmacy access is counterproductive, because when patients do not take their medications correctly, health suffers and long-term healthcare costs rise.”

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