WASHINGTON Now, it’s up to the White House.
Pharmacy leaders breathed a cautious sigh of relief today with passage in the U.S. Senate last night of a bill that would delay for six months a looming requirement that all Medicaid prescriptions to be written on tamper-resistant prescription paper. But with no time left to lose before the Oct. 1 deadline originally imposed by Congress for implementation of the new prescription pad rule, leaders at the National Association of Chain Drug Stores and the National Community Pharmacists Association immediately set their sights on convincing President Bush to sign the measure into law before Monday.
Following passage in the House of a companion measure, the Senate on Thursday night approved H.R. 3668, extending several health care programs set to expire Oct. 1. Of critical interest to pharmacy and physician groups, it also allows for a six-month delay in the tamper-proof mandate to give both professions—and state Medicaid administrators nationwide—a chance to obtain the needed pads and adapt to the new requirement.
The original mandate was written into an Iraq war funding bill with little notice, requiring all Medicaid prescriptions to be written on special tamper-resistant pads beginning Oct. 1. The rapidly approaching deadline raised alarm bells among dozens of pharmacy, physician and patient advocacy groups in recent weeks, and spawned an increasingly intense lobbying campaign to turn aside the regulation.
“Community pharmacists are aware of the problems associated across the country with Medicaid fraud,” said Bruce Roberts, executive vice president and chief executive officer of NCPA. “With a stroke of the President’s pen, the health care community will have adequate lead time to make the use of tamper-resistant pads a reality. I urge President Bush to move swiftly to approve this delay before the October 1st effective date of the law.”
NACDS president and chief executive officer Steven Anderson praised the bipartisan leadership of Ohio Senators George Voinovich, a Republican, and Democrat Sherrod Brown, for addressing the tamper-resistant requirement in a stand-alone bill earlier this week—a bill that was superseded by the extension legislation passed last night. “The determined efforts of Senator Brown, Senator Voinovich, as well as Senate Leadership, were crucial to achieving passage of this six-month delay.
“We greatly appreciate their support for community pharmacy and the Medicaid patients we serve,” Anderson said. “We also applaud the support of Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., and ranking member Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, who supported inclusion of the delay in the final health extenders legislation.”