House votes to preserve choice for military pharmacy customers

WASHINGTON, D.C. The House of Representatives today moved to preserve the right of U.S. military members and their families to choose where they have their prescriptions filled with passage of a newly revised military spending bill.

The bill, dubbed S. 3001 or the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2009, was hammered out in negotiations with the Senate. It maintains a key provision of critical importance to retail pharmacy operators by preserving pharmacy choice for the nine million service members and their families covered under the military’s comprehensive health care program, TRICARE. 

The provision would extend the current freeze on increases to retail pharmacy co-payments, thus maintaining a level playing field for retail pharmacies vis-a-vis mail-order pharmacies. Chain and independent pharmacy advocates fought a long struggle to have that provision included in last year’s military spending bill, and were buoyed by its inclusion in this year’s proposal.

“The brave men and women serving our nation should be able to choose where to obtain their prescription medications, just like Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries, other federal employees, and enrollees in most commercial health plans,” said National Association of Chain Drug Stores president and chief executive officer Steven Anderson. “We are pleased that the House and Senate negotiators have recognized the importance of choice and we urge the Senate to quickly pass the bill as the House has done.”

NACDS also issued comments this week, prior to a Sept. 23 deadline, to a proposed regulation by the Department of Defense to include the TRICARE retail pharmacy program in the federal procurement of pharmaceuticals. The law could also make it easier for retail pharmacies to compete for the military prescription market by making it cheaper for the program to buy drugs dispensed at retail.

“These regulations were required by the National Defense Authorization Act of 2008, and are critical to the department’s efforts to control prescription drug spending,” noted NACDS. “The proposed rule estimates a savings of $719 million in fiscal year 2009. 

 

“These significant savings will level the playing field between mail order and the retail pharmacy network, thereby eliminating the need for policies such as increased co-payments that steer beneficiaries to mail order,” the organization added in a statement.

“NACDS recommends that TRICARE pharmacy cost-sharing be structured in a way that encourages the use of generic medications and other lower cost therapies, rather than as a means to steer beneficiaries to a particular pharmacy outlet,” the comments stated.

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