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DME and the competitive bidding rules: Freezing out mom-and-pops and patients

BY Jim Frederick

Will Congress rip away the ability of independent and small chain pharmacies to sell diabetic supplies and durable medical equipment to Medicare patients?

That’s the essential question being debated by the U.S. House Small Business Subcommittee on Healthcare and Technology. The congressional panel is mulling a proposal from some lawmakers to exempt smaller pharmacy operators — defined as those with 10 or fewer locations — from the new Medicare competitive bidding program.

Freeing small pharmacies from those burdensome bidding regulations is critically important, both to patient access to needed health supplies, and to the notion of free-market competition and a level playing field, the National Community Pharmacists Association said. One of its members, independent pharmacy owner Randy Mire of Gem Drugs in Louisiana, testified before the House subcommittee last week in support of H.R. 1936, The Medicare Access to Diabetes Supplies Act. The bipartisan legislation would allow small pharmacies to continue to furnish patients with diabetes testing supplies and personalized counseling on their proper use, without having to submit to lengthy and cost-prohibitive competitive bidding rules.

Mire serves patients in small-town and rural parts of the Bayou State, where access to DME supplies is severely limited for many Medicare beneficiaries. Gem Drugs, he told congressional representatives, "is one of the very few pharmacies still in the area that provides these essential DME supplies to patients." Mire said he wouldn’t be able to continue providing diabetic supplies, wheelchairs and other DME if he’s forced to bid for the business and accept sharply reduced payments.

He isn’t alone. In a survey conducted by NCPA, more than 9-out-of-10 independent pharmacy owners said they would have to exit the Medicare diabetes test supply program if presented with a sharp reduction in payments. And 83% of them said the impact on patients if they had to obtain diabetes supplies from mail order would be significant.

As Drug Store News senior editor Mike Johnsen put it, reducing the costs that the government pays for DME for Medicare patients through competitive bidding would “succeed in reducing the overall cost of care in much the same way the cost of sugarcane would be reduced in a sugar-free zone.

"If you can’t access the care, you can’t pay for it and, consequently, the cost of that care is less expensive," Johnsen writes. "How’s that for backward math?"

Are Mire, NCPA and Johnsen right? Should small pharmacy owners be exempted from competitive bidding, or are they overstating the potential damage to pharmacies and patients that the new bidding requirements would cause? Let us know what you think.

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Walgreens finalizes USA Drug deal

BY Michael Johnsen

 DEERFIELD, Ill. — Walgreens on Monday announced that it has completed its purchase of 144 stores operating under the USA Drug, Super D Drug, May’s Drug, Med-X and Drug Warehouse banners located in Arkansas, Kansas, Mississippi, Missouri, New Jersey, Oklahoma and Tennessee.

The acquisition also includes corporate offices, a distribution center located in Pine Bluff, Ark., and a wholesale and private brand business, for a total of approximately $438 million subject to adjustment in certain circumstances.

USA Drug recorded sales of $825 million in 2011, Walgreens reported.

 

 

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Healthcare-reform supporters show altruism

BY Alaric DeArment

A lot of people have quite a few things to say about healthcare reform, whether they favor or oppose it. But supporters of the law show an altruistic sensibility and an understanding of how the law would benefit other Americans, according to an exclusive survey of nearly 800 patients conducted by AccentHealth and DSN in late July and early August.

Among the 486 polled supporters of the law, 67% said it would allow coverage for pre-existing medical conditions, while almost the same percentage, 66%, said millions of Americans would have coverage, and exactly half said it would be good for the American public, and 44% said it would provide cost savings for seniors. They also showed an understanding of the benefits to themselves. Forty-eight percent said they would have access to new and extended healthcare benefits, while 47% foresaw preventive care at no additional cost, and 42% said they would save on prescription drugs.

To see more Patient Views, click here.

Patient Views is a new, exclusive consumer insights feature that will be appear in every edition of DSN magazine and the daily e-newsletter DSN A.M. If you could ask 4,000 patients anything at all, what would it be? Send your questions to [email protected].

What do you believe are the advantages of healthcare reform?

Source: AccentHealth. To view the methodology, click here.

 

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