NEW YORK Did RxIMPACT Day make an impact? You bet.
If there were any members of Congress that hadn’t noticed the more than 150 members of the community pharmacy community making their way around the Capitol — many of them clad in the white lab coats symbolic of the profession — on Weds., certainly there couldn’t have been a member on the Hill that hadn’t felt their presence by the time the day was done.
They were there to deliver a singular message that was not to be confused or misinterpreted, and revolved around just a handful of core objectives, including, first and foremost, to reinforce community pharmacy’s image among lawmakers as the face of neighborhood healthcare, and three critical policy issues: to fix AMP; make sure that MTM is a meaningful part of any lasting healthcare reform legislation, and to make sure pharmacies are exempt from putting up $50,000 per location in surety bonds for the right to sell DME to Medicare beneficiaries. As NACDS VP federal legislative affairs Paul Kelly instructed during a breakfast briefing, they didn’t speak in acronyms, and they didn’t forget to make the ask.
And the message wasn’t that lawmakers should do any of this just because it is good for pharmacies, but because it is the right thing to do for the American healthcare system, and most importantly, for patients. AMP is about access, Kelly explained; MTM is about quality and improving patient outcomes; the DME issue is about coordination of care and trying to eliminate the fragmentation that makes health care inefficient, drives up costs and drives down patient outcomes.
That message played on throughout the day, in a kind of surround-sound effect. A backpage ad in the June 17 edition of Roll Call — the newspaper of record among Capitol Hill lawmakers, policy advisors and assorted other Beltway influencers and Washington insiders — announced, “We are here to say, ‘We’re there.’”
“Our message?” the Roll Call ad continued, “Pharmacies can help enhance healthcare quality, access and affordability. By incorporating pharmacy’s strengths into healthcare reform, we can improve healthcare wherever NACDS Members serve patients — including every state and every Congressional district.” A sticker on page 1, asked, “Want to turn around healthcare? Turn over this newspaper and see the back page.”
Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-WA, included a statement in the June 17th edition of the Congressional Record — the daily blow-by-blow of official Congressional proceedings — not only to publicly acknowledge that RxIMPACT Day was happening, but also noting the important role community pharmacy plays “in the lives and health of folks in Eastern Washington as well as all Americans,” she told her fellow House members. “As the face of neighborhood health care, pharmacists across the nation are uniquely qualified to help patients manage their conditions through medication, including monitoring their prescription use.”
In all, NACDS staffers coordinated meetings with more than 180 Congressional offices. Their aim was to reach key committee members who are working directly on healthcare reform. And that’s without factoring in what Drug Store News is calling, “The Absentee Ballot Effect.” Through a grassroots-fed letter writing campaign, NACDS members sent more than 1,700 letters to members of Congress within the first 24 hours of the program.
For our part, Drug Store News was there to be a bit more than just a spectator. We presented a special guide we designed just for lawmakers and policy advisors, and others outside of the industry whose opinions and influence have a major impact on the future of community pharmacy. The guide, “Community Pharmacy & Public Health: Profiles in Reform,” contained 10 brief stories about what companies in our industry are doing every day to lead on health reform, torn from the pages of Drug Store News, which we hand-delivered to all 535 members of Congress. (To download a free electronic copy, log on to http://www.drugstorenews.com/pdfs/The_Role_of_Pharmacy.pdf)