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RxIMPACT and the New League of Extraordinary Ladies and Gentlemen

Rob Eder

If you could be a superhero for one day, what special powers do you think you would choose for yourself? Would it be the power of flight? How about invisibility? Or invincibility?

What if I told you none of that gets you anywhere in Washington? If you really want to be a hero in Washington, you need a set of super powers that on the surface might seem pretty ordinary, like the power of utter visibility, the power of seamless communication or the power to persuade and convince.

None of that may sound very exciting until you get a chance to see it for yourself. I got my chance earlier this month, when I was lucky enough to be among the contingent of more than 150 individuals who traveled to the Capitol for National Association of Chain Drug Stores’ first-ever RxIMPACT Day for an opportunity to tell the folks on The Hill their extraordinary stories about the important role community pharmacy plays every day in improving patient outcomes and driving down total healthcare costs. And while their uniforms may have been a bit less colorful than Superman’s, there can be no denying the enormous impact all of those pharmacists clad in shirts, ties and white lab coats had on Wednesday, June 17.

Drug Store News has commented before about Steve Anderson’s leadership, and to be certain, Anderson sets the direction at NACDS. It’s his offense, as they say. He’s the quarterback, the consummate Washington professional, and it shows in every way. But this one is about the team that Anderson has around him. The success of RxIMPACT Day was a clear reflection of the extraordinary men and women that lead NACDS’ efforts across all departments, but particularly, its staff in pharmacy and government affairs, marketing, communications and media relations, and one key individual who brought a certain “know-how, verve and commitment,” in the words of one key NACDS staffer, that proved absolutely vital to the project—director of government affairs and grass-roots programs Heidi Ecker.

All in all, NACDS organized meetings between its members, including retail executives from across food, drug and mass, and more than 180 Congressional offices. NACDS focused on key members of the House and Senate who hold leadership positions or participate in key committee assignments directly related to health reform. In the parlance of Drug Store News, NACDS came with a single, laser-focused mission to “influence the influencers.”

Their message was not to be confused or misinterpreted, and revolved around a handful of core objectives, including, first and foremost, to reinforce community pharmacy’s image among lawmakers as the face of neighborhood healthcare, and three critical policy issues: to fix AMP, make sure that MTM is a meaningful part of any lasting healthcare reform legislation and make sure pharmacies are exempt from putting up $50,000 per location in surety bonds for the right to sell DME to Medicare beneficiaries.

Their message to lawmakers wasn’t that they should do any of this because it is good for pharmacies but because it is the right thing to do for the American healthcare system.

AMP has to be fixed because if one-fifth of the nation’s pharmacies are forced to shut down because they will operate at a loss on every Medicaid script they touch, that hurts access to health care. “Access” is one of the biggest buzzwords in healthcare reform right now.

MTM is about improving patient outcomes by getting people with chronic diseases to utilize their medication correctly; it’s about improving “quality,” another key buzzword.

As for the DME issue, that’s about coordination of care and trying to eliminate the fragmentation that makes health care inefficient; if a patient with diabetes has to go to one place to get his insulin and another place to get his testing supplies because his local pharmacy can’t sell DME, how does that give him the very best shot of staying healthy?

It was a message that played over and over again on RxIMPACT Day. NACDS didn’t just rely on its face-to-face meetings to make its presence known. A back-page ad on the June 17 edition of Roll Call—the newspaper of record among Capitol Hill lawmakers and policy advisers—announced, “We are here to say, ‘We’re there.’”

“Our message?” the Roll Call ad continued, “Pharmacies can help enhance healthcare quality, access and affordability. By incorporating pharmacy’s strengths into healthcare reform, we can improve health care wherever NACDS Members serve patients—including every state and every Congressional district.”

Did RxIMPACT have an impact? Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., included a statement in the June 17 edition of the Congressional Record, the daily blow-by-blow of official Congressional proceedings, not only to publicly acknowledge that RxIMPACT Day was happening, but also noting the important role community pharmacy plays “in the lives and health of folks in eastern Washington, as well as all Americans,” she told her fellow House members.

For our part, Drug Store News was there to be a bit more than just a spectator. We presented a special guide we designed just for lawmakers and policy advisers, and others outside of the industry whose opinions and influence have a major impact on the future of community pharmacy. The guide, “Community Pharmacy & Public Health: Profiles in Reform,” contained 10 brief stories about what companies in our industry are doing to lead health reform. We hand-delivered it to all 535 members of Congress. (To download a free electronic copy, log on to www.drugstorenews.com/pdfs/The_Role_of_Pharmacy.pdf)

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