Alexandria, Va. Sept. 30, 2013 - The advent of Health Insurance Marketplaces, commonly known as insurance exchanges, presents new questions and opportunities for independent community pharmacists, and the National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA) is offering its members valuable resources and guidance to make the most of one of the biggest changes to the U.S. health care system in a generation.
"The Affordable Care Act may be controversial, but there is no disputing that it represents a significant change to the health care landscape," NCPA CEO B. Douglas Hoey, RPh, MBA. "What distinguishes America's more than 23,000 independent community pharmacies is their focus on patient care, and NCPA constantly works to strengthen that relationship through member-only benefit offerings.
"Pharmacists have the flexibility to take an active role in helping patients find the right plan for them in the marketplaces. In contrast, pharmacists are prohibited from counseling seniors to select a specific Medicare Part D drug plan. Nevertheless, when the Part D program was launched in 2006, pharmacists stepped in to provide crucial assistance to seniors dealing with the initial Part D glitches. Those efforts were duly noted by Michael Leavitt, then Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, who called pharmacists' efforts at the time 'nothing short of heroic.'"
The NCPA Insurance Exchanges webpage contains answers to frequently asked questions (FAQs), pharmacy-specific resources, patient outreach information, downloadable documents, and patient-centric information. This includes notable features such as a comparison between the Health Insurance Marketplace and Medicare Part D (a program independent community pharmacies help patients navigate during the enrollment window at the end of each calendar year), and information about special requirements some exchanges might have for participation in enrollment activities. In addition, the webpage has exclusive NCPA marketing materials intended for use by pharmacies with patients.
The website is the centerpiece of NCPA's support to its members in this area, which has also included a colleague-to-colleague Members Forum conference call (a recording of which is available on the site) and informative articles in its eNews Weekly member-only newsletter and America's Pharmacist.
The federal Health Insurance Marketplace website, where patients can shop for health insurance online, is scheduled to open tomorrow, Oct. 1, 2013 and enrollment runs until Mar. 31, 2014. Coverage will start as soon as Jan. 1, 2014. Prescription drug coverage is required by law to be included in any qualified health plan in the marketplace. Pharmacists, as clinically-trained medication experts, are uniquely qualified to help assist patients in selecting the plan that best suits their medical and financial needs. According to the Congressional Budget Office, 7 million uninsured Americans are expected to sign up for new health plans during the six-month open enrollment period.
The National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA®) represents the interests of America's community pharmacists, including the owners of more than 23,000 independent community pharmacies. Together they represent an $88.5 billion health care marketplace, dispense nearly 40% of all retail prescriptions, and employ more than 300,000 individuals, including over 62,000 pharmacists. To learn more go to www.ncpanet.org or read NCPA's blog, The Dose, at http://ncpanet.wordpress.com/.
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