TRICARE legislation passes Senate, easing threat of mail order pharmacy

WASHINGTON Drawing praise from pharmacy advocates, the Senate has approved legislation that would allow soldiers, military retirees and their families to continue using local community pharmacies for their prescriptions without penalty.

The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008 passed by the Senate includes the “pro-soldier, pro-savings” approach to prescriptions filled through the TRICARE military health system that’s advocated by groups like the National Association of Chain Drug Stores and the National Community Pharmacists Association. It extends the current freeze on increases to retail pharmacy co-payments, and also includes language, offered by Senator Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., that prohibits increased co-payments for military beneficiaries using retail pharmacies in the TRICARE program.

The Senate bill also includes clarifies the ability of the Department of Defense to negotiate with drug manufacturers for federal pricing discounts for TRICARE prescriptions filled at retail, in the same manner as those filled at military bases or by mail order. Those price discounts could yield $300 million in savings in fiscal 2008, according to Congressional Budget Office estimates, and $1.8 billion in savings through the year 2012.

“In addition to leveling the playing field between mail order and retail pharmacies, these tremendous savings eliminate the need to penalize beneficiaries who choose to obtain their prescription medications and services from their local pharmacies,” NACDS noted in a statement today.

“This bill is pro-soldier in that it protects the right of over nine million TRICARE beneficiaries to benefit from their relationships with chain community pharmacists…which improve patient outcomes,” said NACDS president and chief executive officer Steve Anderson. “The bill also is pro-savings for military families and for the Department of Defense alike.

“Now that these provisions have passed both the House and Senate, chain community pharmacy will remain vigilant to ensure this sound approach to public policy is enacted into law,” he added.

The Defense Authorization Act now requires negotiation of differences between House and Senate versions of the bill followed by the signature of the President. NACDS and NCPA, through the Coalition for Community Pharmacy Action, are lobbying for the quick enactment of the law.

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