NCPA Executive Update

NCPA Executive Update delivers insights on legislative, regulatory, policy, and industry developments from NCPA CEO B. Douglas Hoey, Pharmacist, MBA, to NCPA members and pharmacy leaders every Friday.

What About Bob? | NCPA Executive Update | June 3, 2016

by NCPA | Jun 03, 2016

What About Bob?

Dear Colleague,

Doug Hoey

When Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) walked into the room of 300+ people, the very first thing he said before he even sat down was, "Is Bob Blake here?"

I was at a luncheon hosted by the Ohio Pharmacists Association during its annual meeting in April. Brown spent 14 years in the House of Representatives before being elected Senator in 2006. Blake is an NCPA Past President, current NCPA Foundation board member, and pharmacy owner from Ohio who has hosted Sen. Brown in at least two of his pharmacies and has developed a relationship with Brown over a number of years.

A few minutes later, the Senator gave his remarks and talked for at least 15 minutes on the value of pharmacists; the trust his dad, a physician, had in his local community pharmacist; and he talked with Bob from the stage. "Have I been to all of your stores? When did I last visit? It wasn't that long ago."

Perhaps not surprisingly, Brown is a cosponsor of bills supporting community pharmacy's priority issues. He is also an original signatory on a letter asking the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to finalize its guidance requiring PBMs to estimate all direct and indirect remunerations (DIRs) at point of sale. And, he asked the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee for Health and Human Services to request report language from CMS on the use of DIRs.

Relationships do matter. Certainly, elected officials make up their own minds about where they stand on issues. But the old saying, "All politics is local," has truth to it.

Last week more than 350 community pharmacists, pharmacy representatives, and pharmacy students came to NCPA's Congressional Pharmacy Summit and made more than 600 visits to members of Congress. For some, it was a first time meeting with their representative and for many others it was continuing the relationship they had already started.

Despite what seems like the extreme influence of money on politicians, the connection between a politician and their constituent still matters—a lot. After all, the constituents are the voters. They are the people that politician is sworn to represent. They also are the people who elected the politician to office and they have a chance every two, four, or six years to decide if they want to re-elect or replace.

Community pharmacy is not going to outspend its opponents. The largest "pure" PBM—Express Scripts—claims more revenue than the combined revenue of Disney, McDonalds, and American Express! However, it is community pharmacy owners who many politicians know are vital to their communities by helping people get and stay healthy and by creating jobs. According to the Small Business Administration, 49.2% of all of the private sector work force is employed by small businesses and 64% of new, private-sector jobs!

This is an excellent year to grow or start your relationship with your representatives. The House will be at recess from June 24 to July 4, July 16 through Labor Day, and then out again Oct. 1—Nov. 13 during this presidential election year. That breaks down to 125 days the House is not is session out of the next 163 meaning politicians will be somewhere besides Washington, D.C. The Senate is on a similar schedule.

Plan ahead now and make an appointment with your elected officials—both your Representative and Senators—while they are at home. Attend town hall meetings and don't be afraid to respectfully ask questions from the audience. Encourage your employees to get involved.

Invite your members of Congress to your store for a pharmacy visit. Show them what goes on behind the counter and explain the economic model of take it or leave it contracts, clawbacks, and ask them to take action. NCPA staff can help you arrange the visit, and you can find tips for scheduling and hosting a visit here. (NCPA login is required to view this page.)

You know the issues already but here's a summary of some of the talking points used during the Pharmacy Summit. NCPA has also just rolled out a new grassroots system to help you connect with your local representatives.

The example of the relationship between Senator Brown and Bob Blake is a good one because it's also genuine. Brown has been involved in Ohio politics since the mid-70s. Blake has been a pharmacy owner in Ohio all during that time. They have a common interest in Ohio—just like you do for the people of your state. Make the connection this summer—just like Bob.

Doug Hoey

P.S. Check out photos from the Summit on NCPA's Facebook page.