WASHINGTON — The National Association of Chain Drug Stores and its members from across the country once again are flocking to Capitol Hill for RxImpact Day, a groundbreaking, two-day event that enables pharmacists to meet with members of Congress to discuss the vital role of retail pharmacy within the U.S. healthcare system and its ability to help reduce annual healthcare costs.
The third annual event, which is part of NACDS’ overall RxImpact grassroots initiative, will be held March 9 and 10. In addition to the efforts of those participating in person in the event, NACDS RxImpact is once again conducting a “Virtual Hill Day” through which pharmacy advocates can reach out to their elected officials via online resources to have their voices heard.
The event not only enables pharmacy leaders to hear from elected representatives but also, and perhaps most importantly, delivers to Congress “their points and their messages and talks about what a great contribution they make as pharmacists to our healthcare system in helping bring down costs and ultimately helping people stay and get healthy,” explained Paul Kelly, VP federal government affairs for NACDS.
Last year’s RxImpact Day brought some 250 pharmacy leaders to the nation’s capital — a 67% boost compared with 2009 — for the intense lobbying effort, and NACDS is anticipating another robust turnout for this year’s event.
“The RxImpact Grassroots program, overall, is designed to help educate the pharmacy community across the country about how Washington works — not only about the policies that are important but [also] how Washington works and how they can be effective,” said Heidi Ecker, director of government affairs and grassroots programs for NACDS.
In the past few years, much of the emphasis centered on healthcare reform and, within that context, the Medicaid average manufacturer price, which pharmacists have long argued would force pharmacies to shut their doors and would jeopardize patients’ access to pharmacies.
This year, given that there’s so much focus on reducing federal spending, controlling the national debt and the annual budget deficits, the lobbying wishlist will once again address Medicaid AMP, warning members of Congress that steep cuts could risk patients’ access to pharmacies and the professional services offered by pharmacists. Pharmacy advocates also will urge Congress to pass legislation to make medication therapy management available to more seniors in the Medicare program in an effort to achieve maximum medication adherence.
Ecker noted that participants who register for this year’s event will have access to an online briefing center, which houses such resources as how to talk with members of Congress on the issues and what it is like to be a policy-maker.
“Last year, participants were successful in meeting with over 220 members of Congress, … and we expect just as strong a presence [this year], which is going to be particularly important given the 112 new members of Congress,” Ecker said. “So we’re really excited to be able to try and meet with those folks and in addition, of course, all other members of Congress and folks serving on the key committees of healthcare jurisdiction.”
WHY IT'S IMPORTANT:
“Pharmacists are the most accessible healthcare providers, and it’s important that lawmakers hear from them about how they can do more to improve quality care while lowering overall healthcare costs. Walgreens is leading this effort to transform community pharmacy and fully utilize pharmacists in the healthcare system. That’s why we believe it’s so important for our pharmacists to participate in the legislative process and help shape the destiny of the profession. NACDS RxImpact Day provides a great venue for our pharmacists and pharmacy executives to have their voices heard.”
— Debbie Garza, divisional VP government relations, Walgreens
“The people that we see — the senators, representatives and their respective staffs — I think it is important that we have a relationship with them. It is not just about identifying a piece of legislation that you are not happy with and voicing your concerns; it is more importantly establishing a relationship to let them know what you support as well. … You don’t often get a chance to talk to those who represent you, and ... I think it is important for them, too, because they get a chance to speak with their constituents. … What we want to stay tuned to is Medicaid reimbursement, what is going on in the Medicare arena and the value of pharmacy with healthcare reform on the horizon. We feel that our pharmacists are convenient, they’re accessible and they’re knowledgeable. Those are key ingredients in participating in the healthcare-reform changes that are coming our way. … One of the things we want to understand is the appropriate procedures and protocol.”
— Mark Polli, director of pharmacy, government and regulatory affairs, Delhaize
“With the rapid changes the pharmacy industry sees year to year, it is imperative that we stay connected to what is happening in Washington, D.C. Many members of Congress only experience the pharmacy industry through their eyes as a patient. Events like NACDS’ RxImpact Day allow us to not only stay connected and involved in fast-moving issues, but also provides the opportunity to advocate for our profession and industry. I strongly encourage my colleagues to participate in events like this.”
— Chris Dimos, president of pharmacies, Supervalu