House passes Defense bill with TRICARE intact

ALEXANDRIA, Va. A new move in Congress to preserve access to community pharmacies for military families drew quick praise today from the National Association of Chain Drug Stores.

NACDS applauded passage in the U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday of H.R. 4986, a newly revised version of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008. The bill is similar to the Defense Authorization Act that was vetoed by President Bush, who objected to a provision related to funding for the Iraqi government. As such, it retains important provisions related to the TRICARE pharmacy program.

Those provisions have long been actively supported by retail pharmacy groups. Among them, the revised bill extends the current freeze on increases to retail pharmacy co-payments. That extension provides a more level playing field between retail and mail-order pharmacy by easing the penalty military members and their dependents once incurred for choosing a community pharmacy over the mail-order provision offered by TRICARE.

The bill passed by the House yesterday also provides that the Department of Defense may negotiate with drug manufacturers for federal pricing discounts for TRICARE prescriptions filled at retail pharmacies, in the same manner as they do today for TRICARE prescriptions filled at military bases or by mail order.

According to Congressional Budget Office estimates, giving TRICARE administrators the power to negotiate drug prices will provide save the government $300 million in fiscal 2008, and $1.8 billion in savings in fiscal years 2008-2012. 

“As Yogi Berra said, ‘It’s deja vu all over again.’ We applaud the House for its quick action to revise and re-pass the Defense Authorization Act while keeping its pharmacy-related provisions intact,” said NACDS president and chief executive officer Steve Anderson. “Keeping equal access to community pharmacy for our military men and women is a priority for NACDS.

“This legislation will help maintain choice for soldiers, military retirees, and their families,” Anderson said.

The Defense Authorization Act still faces a vote in the Senate and White House scrutiny.

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