NACDS cautions Congress on expanding Medicare's DME bidding program

ALEXANDRIA, Va. The National Association of Chain Drug Stores on Wednesday issued a statement to the House of Representatives' Committee on Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health, which held a hearing earlier in the morning on the implications for quality, cost and access to Medicare’s competitive bidding program for durable medical equipment.

NACDS recommended to the subcommittee that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services delay expansion of the competitive bidding program 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 in 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 stated. “Pharmacists play a key role in ensuring patients use their supplies in the most proper and meaningful way. Including retail pharmacies in the competitive bidding program will limit the number of options available to beneficiaries. ... Beneficiaries should have the continued ability to obtain their medical supplies from pharmacies with which they have a long-standing relationship,” the statement read.

In related news, the National Community Pharmacists Association, the lobbying group which represents the nation's independent pharmacies, offered three legislative recommendations to the House subcommittee, which included the passage of H.R. 5235 -- the Medicare Access to Diabetes Supplies Act -- which would preserve seniors' access to diabetes supplies at community pharmacies by exempting such businesses from the first round of the competitive bidding program. NCPA also added that:

  • Congress must introduce and pass legislation that exempts community pharmacies from any pricing resulting from competitive bidding. Otherwise, pharmacies might be forced to ”terminate sales of diabetes testing supplies and hinder beneficiary access if the prices established under such a program are applied to the community pharmacy market” in the future; and
  • In enacting legislation to address the points above, Congress also should clarify the ability of community pharmacists to deliver these products to homebound seniors and, on a temporary basis, to “snow bird” seniors who spend colder months in warmer climates. CMS’ proposed present definition in this instance of “mail order” as “any item…shipped or delivered to the beneficiaries’ home regardless of the method of delivery,” would block community pharmacies from providing these patient services.

NCPA noted that it has constructively worked with CMS ever since the CBP program was announced and that such efforts will continue.

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