NCPA responds to CMS' diabetes competitive bidding program

ALEXANDRIA, Va. A group representing the nation's independent pharmacies is urging caution as the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services continues its Medicare Part B durable medical equipment, prosthetics, orthotics and supplies competitive bidding program.

The National Community Pharmacists Association issued a statement Thursday urging caution against actions that possibly could "undermine or reverse the benefits of coordinated care," as community pharmacies work on a daily basis with diabetes patients and physicians to improve health outcomes and lower healthcare costs.

"[The] inclusion of small pharmacies in the bidding program or reimbursing them at the newly announced mail order rates eventually would result in the virtual elimination of independents from the program. Independents don't operate with the purchasing power of large-chains or mail order competitors and thus can't always match those prices," NCPA president Joseph Harmison said.

The group also pointed out that seniors in rural or underserved areas depend on community pharmacies for consultations and diabetes testing supplies; the DMEPOS competitive bidding program should continue without interferring with small chain pharmacies' operations.

"When seniors cannot consult their local pharmacists about their medications and testing supplies, inevitably problems will arise. It's common for mail order customers to end up in independent pharmacies seeking instruction on how to use the testing supplies -- care for which the local pharmacist is not compensated. Plus, many supplies are changing, so the way seniors use them needs to change. Local pharmacists help ensure patients get accurate blood glucose readings - not a false sense of security or an unnecessary state of panic," Harmison concluded.

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