Alexandria, VA - June 18, 2010
The National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA) announced support for language included in an amendment by U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) that calls for a study of the factors that influence a pharmacy's cost of dispensing a Medicaid prescription. The study would be done by the U.S. Government Accountability Office. Sen. Bennet hopes to include the proposal in legislation pending before the Senate that would extend Medicaid funding to states, unemployment insurance and a range of tax provisions.
NCPA wrote to Sen. Bennet in support of his amendment, number 4381, and NCPA Executive Vice President and CEO Bruce T. Roberts, RPh, issued the following statement:
"NCPA supported Senator Bennet's amendment when he offered it in December to the health care reform legislation and the need for this study has only grown since then. It's been over a decade since the federal government studied the pharmacy's cost of dispensing. In that time, the dispensing fees paid to community pharmacies in Medicaid and other government-sponsored health plans have continued to decrease while the pharmacy's cost of dispensing is on the rise.
"Private estimates have found the cost of dispensing to be between $10.50 and $11. In contrast, the aggregate average dispensing fee paid by the states under Medicaid has been estimated to be between $4.75 and $5.02 per prescription.
"This discrepancy is particularly important for independent pharmacies and for rural states like Colorado, where a pharmacy may be the only accessible health care provider for many miles. Unlike Big Box stores where drug reimbursement can be a 'loss leader', independent pharmacies derive over 90% of revenue from prescription sales and serve an extraordinarily high share of Medicaid patients.
"We appreciate Senator Bennet's recognition of the importance of rural pharmacies to the nation's health care infrastructure. A GAO study could provide needed information by which to set dispensing fees.
"It's also critical for Congress to include in this pending legislation an extension of current federal Medicaid payments to the states, also known as FMAP. Failure to approve this funding could force states to drastically slash Medicaid budgets, potentially cutting pharmacy reimbursement to the point of forcing independent pharmacies out of the Medicaid program or to close altogether. Under that scenario, costs to the state go up as underserved patients may be led to more expensive emergency rooms for care, while good, local jobs are jeopardized."
The National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA®) represents America's community pharmacists, including the owners of more than 22,700 independent community pharmacies, pharmacy franchises, and chains. Together they represent an $88 billion health-care marketplace, employ over 65,000 pharmacists, and dispense over 40% of all retail prescriptions. To learn more go to www.ncpanet.org or read NCPA's blog, The Dose, at http://ncpanet.wordpress.com.
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