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President Bush signs defense act into law; TRICARE access preserved

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ALEXANDRIA, Va. President Bush on Monday enacted H.R. 4986, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008, thereby preserving TRICARE beneficiaries’ access to retail pharmacies.

The TRICARE program—which provides prescription drug coverage for over nine million active-duty military, retirees and their families—is especially effected by two provisions in the bill that long have been actively supported by retail pharmacy groups. Among them, the revised bill extends the current freeze on increases to retail pharmacy co-payments. That extension provides a more level playing field between retail and mail-order pharmacy by easing the penalty military members and their dependents once incurred for choosing a community pharmacy over the mail-order provision offered by TRICARE.

The bill also provides that the Department of Defense may negotiate with drug manufacturers for federal pricing discounts for TRICARE prescriptions filled at retail pharmacies, in the same manner as they do today for TRICARE prescriptions filled at military bases or by mail order. According to Congressional Budget Office estimates, giving TRICARE administrators the power to negotiate drug prices will provide save the government $300 million in fiscal 2008, and $1.8 billion in savings in fiscal years 2008-2012. 

The National Association of Chain Drug Stores was quick to praise the presdient’s actions in signing the bill. “This bill is pro-soldier because it protects the right of TRICARE beneficiaries to maintain their relationships with community pharmacy, which improve patient outcomes. The bill also is pro-savings for military families and for the Department of Defense alike,” said NACDS president and chief executive officer Steve Anderson.

On this issue, NACDS had partnered with the National Community Pharmacists Association through the Coalition for Community Pharmacy Action, as well as with military beneficiary groups and others committed to protecting the right of TRICARE beneficiaries to use the pharmacy of their choice. “This legislation is a landmark victory for pharmacy and the military patients we serve,” said Anderson. “We thank Congress for passing these important TRICARE pharmacy provisions, and we applaud President Bush for signing the bill into law.”

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