NACDS responds to Senate failure on Medicare bill

ALEXANDRIA, Va. Following last night’s failure in the Senate to achieve cloture on H.R. 6331, the Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act of 2008, National Association of Chain Drug Stores president and chief executive officer Steve Anderson issued a statement of thanks to the legislators who backed the bill and have been working to get it passed.

Despite overwhelming support in the House of Representatives, where it passed earlier in the week by a vote of 355-59, the vote last night was just shy the two-thirds needed, at 58-40 with two abstentions—one of whom was Democratic Sen. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts, who was absent for health reasons. “Last night it was clear that 59 Senators were in favor of moving forward with the bill, including nine Republicans,” Anderson stated.

The statement also noted that “NACDS would like to thank those who supported the bill that would prevent pharmacies from facing below cost payments when serving low income patients. We recognize the leadership of Senator Max Baucus, D-Mont., and Representative Frank Pallone, D-N.J., to help prevent drastic pharmacy Medicaid reimbursement cuts—the so-called AMP cuts. Their efforts have not gone unnoticed by retail pharmacies across the country and we thank them for their commitment to our industry and some of its most vulnerable patients.”

The failure to move forward does not spell the end of the fight, Anderson pointed out. “NACDS will continue to do everything possible to find a legislative solution to the problem of Medicaid reimbursement cuts that affect pharmacy.”

Among the provisions in the bill, NACDS supported instituting a program of electronic prescribing in Medicare, “to help improve efficiencies and reduce medical errors in our nation’s health care system; ensuring that pharmacies in the Medicare Part D program are reimbursed in a timely fashion; and providing a delay in the implementation of the competitive bidding program for durable medical equipment.” Many other pharmacy advocacy groups supported these initiatives, as well.

“The battle continues,” concluded Anderson’s statement, “and NACDS looks forward to working with Congress on legislation that will help to ensure low-income patients and seniors have access to retail pharmacies.”

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