Advocacy

Survey: Seniors give thumbs-up to Medicare Part D Rx reforms

BY Sandra Levy

Reducing drug costs borne by seniors due to middlemen and deals in the drug supply chain are Medicare Part D reforms that registered voters strongly support, according to a Morning Consult survey commissioned by the National Community Pharmacists Association.

The survey, conducted in late June, found strong support among voters for measures that would increase stability in the popular Part D program while also lowering costs for seniors.

Popular cost-saving measures include requiring insurers and pharmacy benefit managers to directly pass discounts they negotiate with drug companies to seniors, allowing seniors to access lower co-payments by assuring they can obtain prescriptions from the pharmacy of their choice, and prohibiting PBMs from charging retroactive fees to pharmacies – fees that artificially raise seniors’ out-of-pocket costs.

“Healthcare issues ranked high among concerns in this nationwide survey of nearly 2,000 registered voters – and particularly concerns related to the Medicare Part D prescription drug benefit,” said National Community Pharmacists Association CEO B. Douglas Hoey. “Respondents voiced strong concern about the perverse incentive pharmacy benefit managers have to raise drug prices, including retroactive fees PBMs charge pharmacies that have the effect of pushing Medicare beneficiaries more quickly into the coverage gap – the so-called ‘donut hole’ – and eventually into the catastrophic phase.”

“Only registered voters were surveyed, and the responses clearly demonstrate that voters are more inclined to support candidates who back common-sense Medicare Part D reforms that lower patient costs and expand patient access to their prescription medications,” Hoey said. “The survey also validates policy recommendations NCPA has made to the Trump administration and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in response to the administration’s request for information regarding the drug pricing blueprint it announced in a Rose Garden ceremony back in May.”

Among key findings from the survey:

  • More than 75% of respondents said they’d be more likely to support a candidate for Congress who would vote for a plan to ensure PBM middlemen can’t retroactively charge fees that artificially increase seniors’ drug costs at the pharmacy counter.
  • Voters consider Medicare Part D an effective program, and they were clear in their desire to ensure it is protected.
  • When it comes to Part D policy changes, 4-in-5 respondents favored allowing pharmacists to tell seniors about cheaper ways to buy drugs, and the same share favor allowing seniors to obtain their prescriptions at their pharmacy of choice.
  • Reducing costs seniors endure due to deals and middlemen in the drug supply chain also are reforms that curried favor among voters.
  • While voters express concern regarding many PBM practices, they found the incentive to raise drug prices overwhelmingly suspect.

 

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Missouri enacts legislation to help prevent opioid abuse

BY Sandra Levy

Efforts to help prevent opioid abuse led by the Missouri Pharmacy Association, the Missouri Retailers Association, Missouri state legislators, Gov. Mike Parson, and Sen. David Sater, R have culminated in the enactment of SB 826.

The legislation includes pro-patient, pro-pharmacy, and pro-public-health provisions that industry groups said advance pharmacy scope of practice, enhances patient access to care and contributes solutions to the opioid abuse epidemic.

The provisions, which were backed by the National Association of Chain Drug Stores included in the legislation will enable children 7 years old and older to access vaccinations in community pharmacies (down from age 12 years old previously).

The law also addresses opioid concerns by limiting opioid prescriptions to seven days for acute pain (with exceptions) and enabling community pharmacies to voluntarily take back medicines in accordance with federal law.

“With the enactment of these programs, Gov. Parson and Sen. Sater have taken significant action to curb the opioid abuse crisis,” NACDS president and CEO Steve Anderson said.

“NACDS is grateful to the Missouri Pharmacy Association — especially CEO Ron Fitzwater — for its leadership on these landmark legislative achievements, in addition to the Missouri Retailers Association, and NACDS-member pharmacies in Missouri for sharing their firsthand experiences with lawmakers from their vantage point on the frontlines of healthcare delivery.”

NACDS also credited Rep. Lynn Morris, R, House sponsor of the bill; Rep. Robert Ross, R, the House bill handler; Rep. Mike Stephens, R; and Rep. Travis Fitzwater, R.

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E-prescribing bills have banner week

BY DSN STAFF

Laws that push for electronic prescribing of controlled substances have had a big week, both federally and on the state level. On Capitol Hill, the Every Prescription Conveyed Securely Act cleared the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and in Tennessee, Gov. Bill Haslam signed a bill into law that will require e-prescribing for controlled substances on or after Jan. 1, 2020.

The federal bill, which has been backed by the National Association of Chain Drug Stores since it was introduced, would require e-prescribing for all controlled substance prescriptions covered under Medicare Part D in an effort to prevent fraud and abuse. NACDS president and CEO Steve Anderson thanked the bill’s sponsors, Reps. Katherine Clark, D-Mass., and Markwayne Mullin, R-Okla., as well as committee chairman and ranking member Reps. Greg Walden, R-Ore., and Frank Pallone, Jr., D-N.J.

“Leveraging the benefits of electronic prescribing to help address the opioid abuse epidemic is one of the priority policy recommendations of NACDS, based on the experiences of pharmacists on the front lines of healthcare delivery,” Anderson said. He also praised the signing of the Tennessee bill, which also is consistent with NACDS’ policy recommendations that have been made around the opioid crisis.

“With the enactment of this bill, Governor Haslam and the sponsors of this legislation have acted wisely and swiftly to help curb fraud, abuse and waste and to help address the opioid abuse epidemic,” Anderson said. “NACDS appreciates the leadership of the Tennessee Pharmacy Association, the Tennessee Retail Association, and the NACDS-member pharmacies in Tennessee, for helping to make the case for the new law, based on pharmacists’ experiences on the front lines of healthcare delivery.”

NACDS has found wide support for e-prescribing. A Morning Consults poll commissioned by the group in January found that 74% of Tennessee voters supported a requirement that all prescriptions be handled electronically, with 48% saying they strongly support such a measure. Nationally, 76% said they supported rules regarding required e-prescribing.

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