How NCPA is Getting Involved in The 2009 Health Care Debate

February 01, 2009

(As appeared in Pharmacy Times by Bruce T. Roberts, RPh, NCPA Executive Vice President and CEO)

Robert Louis Stevenson-a 19th century Scottish poet and novelist-advised, "Judge each day not by the harvest, but by the seeds you plant." In other words, do not expect overnight results when undertaking a long-term strategy. President Barack Obama and the 111th Congress' efforts to reform America's health care system will either alleviate or exacerbate many of the challenges facing community pharmacies. That is why NCPA is implementing a comprehensive plan to get our current legislative agenda adopted, while influencing future policies by raising awareness about how instrumental community pharmacies are in keeping patients healthy and in reducing health care costs.

NCPA's legislative "wish-list" includes major priorities that affect all of community pharmacy and its patients. Some of those priorities include a fix that adequately reimburses pharmacies for Medicaid generic prescription drugs instead of the proposed insufficient AMP rule; an anti-trust exemption allowing community pharmacies to negotiate collectively with PBMs for fairer contracts; funding assistance for community pharmacies contained in any e-pedigree legislation; more reasonable guidelines for the Medicare Part B DMEPOS competitive bidding program if a further delay is not achieved; expanded criteria for patients' eligibility in MTM programs; and protection from the FDA's continued encroachment on compounding instead of allowing it to continue being regulated by state boards of pharmacy.

The "wish-list" only chances of success are directly tied to continued improvement with the grassroots efforts exerted by community pharmacists. Last year, their efforts produced results by delaying AMP, DME competitive bidding, and requiring prompt pay to pharmacies in the Medicare Part D program. As a result of the record-breaking amount of contributions from our members to NCPA's Legislative Defense Fund and PAC, we were able to fund our robust operations and donate to supportive incumbents and challengers to help create a pharmacy-friendly majority in Congress. NCPA used 80 grassroots mobilizations for our network of 23,000 members to contact their Senators and Representatives about pending legislative matters. We are creating a list of "go-to" members for future political endeavors by having them describe their level of political involvement. Another tool we employed was having members host 110 fact-finding pharmacy visits for Senators and Representatives.

NCPA is committed to three new strategies in 2009, with more possible if developments warrant. First, we are working diligently to enhance community pharmacy's lines of communications with the Obama Administration. For example, we had productive meetings with Obama's transition team and are encouraged by the appointment of Tom Daschle-an NCPA ally from his Senate days-to be Health & Human Services Secretary. Second, NCPA is emphasizing coalition building with natural allies and partnering with non-traditional allies, with the common goal of influencing the health care debate. As a result, we are tapping into resources and taking part in stakeholder meetings that might otherwise be unavailable. Third, NCPA has launched a patient grassroots initiative called Fight4Rx. The program is designed to recruit pharmacy patients nationwide to become activists who can e-mail or call their Senators and Representatives. By year's end, we will be encouraging our members to recruit thousands of patients. Not only will this add to our army of grassroots members, but provide the necessary patient perspective about how they are impacted by decisions made in Washington, D.C.

With these multitudes of seeds being planted, NCPA members are scheduled to reap the harvest of a 21st century health care system that values community pharmacies for being indispensible health care providers. In that political environment barriers will be removed and opportunities exploited to allow community pharmacies to compete on a level playing field.

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