NACDS, GPhA call on Senate to pass Medicare bill

ALEXANDRIA and ARLINGTON, Va. Just days after overwhelming approval in the House of Representatives for H.R.6331, the Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act of 2008, the National Association of Chain Drug Stores today urged the Senate also to approve the bill.

“This legislation received strong bipartisan support in the House due in large measure to the fact that it contains several provisions critically important to chain pharmacies and the patients they serve,” said NACDS president and chief executive officer Steve Anderson in a letter to Senate leadership. “By delaying billions in Medicaid payment cuts to retail pharmacies—the so-called AMP cuts—the bill will prevent pharmacies from facing below-cost payments when serving low-income patients.”

The Generic Pharmaceutical Association yesterday also urged the Senate to approve the bill. “With gas and food prices climbing, it’s clear that we must improve access to affordable generic medicines. By taking immediate action on this legislation, the Senate can help countless low-income patients who are struggling to pay for needed medicines. Senators also can save thousands of jobs by maintaining the financial viability of local retail pharmacies,” said GPhA President and chief executive officer Kathleen Jaeger.

Both groups also noted their support for the provision in the bill aimed at requiring physicians to use e-prescribing under Medicare, to help improve efficiencies and reduce medical errors in our nation’s health care system. “[It] is a positive step forward in our country’s effort to reduce health care costs, and more importantly, save lives,” Jaeger noted.

A prompt pay provision in the bill is also supported by NACDS to ensure that pharmacies in the Medicare Part D program are reimbursed in a timely fashion. The letter also commended the decision to include language in the bill to provide a delay in the implementation of the competitive bidding program for durable medical equipment.

The Senate version of the Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act of 2008, S. 3101, was introduced in the Senate last week, but an early cloture vote failed, effectively killing the bill. H.R. 6331 was placed on the Senate legislative calendar on Tuesday.

Jaeger also commended members of the House of Representatives, including Energy and Commerce Committee chairman John Dingell, D-Mich., and Ways and Means Committee chairman Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., for their leadership in ensuring that patients’ interests were put first in this debate. “By delaying the AMP provisions, Congress will have time to consider how best to reform the Medicaid pharmacy payment and reporting system to ensure appropriate reimbursement that promotes a level of quality care that all Americans deserve,” said Jaeger.

Anderson agreed: “As the Senate is expected to vote on the bill before adjourning this week, we strongly urge Senators to vote in favor of this bill. Passage of this legislation is critically important to our nation’s retail pharmacies and the millions of Americans they serve every day.” 

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