More than 300 independent community pharmacists from across the country met in Washington, D.C. at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill for the 2013 National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA) Conference on Legislation and Government Affairs from May 7-8. Key government officials and political insiders shared their views on issues of importance to these pharmacist small business owners.
The Legislative Conference culminated in visits by independent community pharmacists to the offices of their Senators and Representatives on Capitol Hill to make their case for legislative action. The pharmacists conducted over 500 meetings with congressional offices.
"Independent community pharmacists play a critical role in improving patient outcomes and reducing costs," said B. Douglas Hoey, RPh, MBA, NCPA CEO. "However, those efforts can be undermined by the decisions made in Washington and in state capitals across the country. NCPA's Legislative Conference is the perfect venue to give independent community pharmacists the megaphone they need to tell Congress why pro-pharmacist legislation is pro-patient and ultimately the right thing to do for the constituents they represent. This year the megaphone grew louder, because independent community pharmacists also advocated for change from outside the confines of Washington, DC, over a more extended period of time."
For members of NCPA unable to attend the events in our nation's capital, this year marked the first ever NCPA Community Pharmacy Advocacy Weeks, from April 29 - May 10. Participants were encouraged to reach out to their Congressional representatives back in their home districts and states by using a variety of methods.
At the Legislative Conference Rep. Tom Marino (R-PA) kicked off the conference by addressing the members at the opening luncheon. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), House Republican Conference Chairman, addressed the membership at the general session. Panels discussed the implementation of the Affordable Care Act as well as insiders' perspective from congressional staff on general health care and pharmacy issues.
A media call featuring Rep. Austin Scott (R-GA); Hugh Chancy, RPh, NCPA third vice president and pharmacy owner in Hahira, GA, and Douglas Hoey occurred to further highlight the most important issues. On the call, Hoey announced the introduction of bipartisan legislation, S. 867, by U.S. Senators Mark Pryor (D-AR) and Jerry Moran (R-KS). The bill would bring common-sense standards to pharmacy audits in the Medicare Part D prescription drug benefit; ensure funds that are recouped through legitimate audits are in fact passed on to Medicare; allow a pharmacy to know how its individual generic drug reimbursement rates are determined (but not those of other pharmacies in that particular health plan's pharmacy network) and require payments to be updated more frequently to keep pace with actual market costs; and give patients new privacy and pharmacy choice protections.
An important component of each Legislative Conference is participation from pharmacy school students. These future pharmacists have a vested interest in ensuring the federal government is creating a regulatory environment that fosters competition and promotes fairness. NCPA's 102 student chapters offer programs to encourage ownership as an option for students following their education. Each year the chapter that brings the most students receives the Dennis Ludwig Memorial Scholarship in Government Affairs and will receive $500. Separately, four student winners were randomly selected to receive $250. The winning student chapter was Harrison School of Pharmacy at Auburn University with 24 students. The four student winners were Jessica Alflen of Ohio Northern University, Eleni Peterson of Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, Nicholas Rainey of Medical University of South Carolina, and Lauren Wee of Ohio State University.
"Based on the feedback we have received from attendees, this year's Legislative Conference and accompanying Community Pharmacy Advocacy Weeks have been a huge success," said Hoey. "The 113th U.S. Congress is only a few months old, so now is the time to educate elected officials about the problems we face and propose remedies to fix them. The response to those efforts was very positive."
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