NCPA members convene for 46th Annual NCPA Conference on National Legislation and Government Affairs

WASHINGTON — The 46th Annual NCPA Conference on National Legislation and Government Affairs kicked off Wednesday on Capitol Hill, bringing together hundreds of members of the National Community Pharmacists Association to discuss critical community pharmacy issues with members of the Senate and House of Representatives, as well as government officials and political insiders.

This year’s two-day event attracted about 400 members. The attendance is the highest it has been in the past three years, and is a reflection of the pressing issues facing independent community pharmacies.

In a conference call Wednesday morning with media, B. Douglas Hoey, CEO of the NCPA, outlined the four key issues its members will be discussing during the event.

One of the biggest concerns, and a top priority for NCPA, is the limitation that independent community pharmacies have to be at the table in Medicare Part D’s preferred networks.

“Our members are disproportionately in rural and underserved areas, and they serve as sort of the canary in the coal mine when it comes to some of the policy changes with Part D and, as such, they are under a lot of pressure and stress by not being allowed to be included in these networks,” Hoey said.

Hoey added that NCPA is endorsing the Ensuring Seniors Access to Local Pharmacies Act (H.R. 4577) and said the bipartisan legislation is a critical first step toward more patient choice and allowing competition. The bill would allow “any willing pharmacy” in medically underserved areas to participate in the Medicare Part D drug plan networks, including the plan’s discounted or preferred networks.

A second priority is price discrepancies among PBMs, and Hoey said that NCPA is supporting legislation (H.R. 4437) that would require PBMs to update their generic drug reimbursements on a timely basis to reflect real-world costs.

“Prices are going up for generic products, but the payment rates are staying the same, and it is as simple as that. … So, our members are being put in a situation where they are having to dispense products sometimes for hundreds of dollars below their actual cost of the product,” Hoey said.

A third area of focus during the conference is expanded scope of services provided by pharmacists.

“Many community pharmacists have the training and expertise to play a larger role in providing basic health services. We’ve seen increased utilization of health services in the first quarter of this year, and we are also seeing a shortage of primary care practitioners. Pharmacists can help assist with this shortage,” Hoey said. He noted that pharmacists can help fill the gap by providing such care as wellness screenings, chronic disease management, immunizations and proper medication management.

In light of this, NCPA is supporting and working to advance legislation (H.R. 4490) to recognize and reimburse pharmacists for providing such care, Hoey said.

Members also will be discussing the difficulty that community pharmacies are experiencing when it comes to obtaining controlled substances for patients with legitimate health needs.

“It is becoming clear that too many patients are becoming collateral damage in the war against prescription drug abuse. We will continue to support what we believe are more balanced strategies, such as prescriber education and the development of prescription drug monitoring programs,” Hoey said during the call.

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