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House passes bill to prevent increase in military co-pays at retail pharmacies

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ALEXANDRIA, Va. Moving on behalf of community pharmacy advocates, the House of Representatives has passed a military spending bill for 2011 that effectively preserves the right of military members and their families to fill their prescriptions at a retail, off-base pharmacy without penalty.

The provision is included in the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2011. The bill, also known as H.R. 5136, protects some 9 million beneficiaries enrolled in the Tricare military health program, by temporarily prohibiting any co-payment increase if a patient purchases his or her prescription from a retail pharmacy.

The bill now heads to the Senate for consideration. But its passage by the House drew immediate praise from the chain pharmacy industry.

“House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Shelton, D-Mo., and Ranking Member Howard ‘Buck’ McKeon, R-Calif., deserve a lot of credit for seeing to it that this provision remained part of the bill,” said Steve Anderson, president and CEO of the National Association of Chain Drug Stores. “Passed just in time for honoring our veterans on Memorial Day, this bill will protect Tricare patients’ choice and maintains retail pharmacy as an option for Tricare beneficiaries.”

NACDS and other pharmacy groups have fought repeatedly for a freeze on Tricare co-payment increases. NACDS has partnered with the Department of Defense (DoD) to obtain millions in Tricare cost-savings and pricing discounts for retail pharmacy prescription medications, and secured an interim final rule authorizing retail pharmacies to administer H1N1, seasonal influenza and pneumococcal vaccines to Tricare beneficiaries.

“NACDS looks forward to working with DoD to better integrate retail pharmacy in the Tricare network and enhance pharmacy’s role in increasing medication adherence, which improves patient health and reduces costs,” said Anderson.

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