Anderson decries ‘backward’ budgeting; urges focus on preventive-care benefits

2/20/2009

ANAHEIM, Calif. The services pharmacists perform and the pharmaceuticals they dispense can save the health system real money, but antiquated government accounting methods that focus on short-term savings are preventing the nation from reaping larger long-term cost benefits, the head of the National Association of Chain Drug Stores said today.

Addressing the California Pharmacists Association, NACDS president and CEO Steven Anderson urged pharmacy advocates to make the case that pharmacies can offer cost-savings through preventive care. He decried the “backward counting” methods that now dominate federal and state budget-making and called on policymakers to focus on the long-term savings that better patient care and pharmacists’ interventions can bring – even if it means spending more in upfront costs for such programs.

“Every proposed policy is evaluated for its likely costs or savings,” Anderson said. “But the current rules do not take into consideration savings or costs beyond the obvious.

“For example, if a policy will reduce the payments for prescriptions from a government program, that is considered a savings. But the rules do not take into consideration the long-term effects that can result if this policy change prevents a patient from taking necessary medications. I call this ‘backward counting.’”

Anderson pointed out the many initiatives conducted by pharmacies, in coordination with other health entities and public or private health plan sponsors, to lower costs and improve outcomes for patients, especially those with chronic disease. However, he said, the upfront investments required for such initiatives have often discouraged government health programs from reaping the benefits of pharmacy care.

“The government needs to make progress in reforming the budget rules,” asserted NACDS’ top executive. “This is more than an academic exercise. These rules serve as the gatekeepers for new policy in virtually every aspect of people’s lives, including healthcare.”

Anderson spoke in advance of a hearing in the U.S. Senate Committee on Finance next Wednesday, focusing on budget options for calculating the costs of healthcare reform proposals. In his speech to California pharmacists, he expressed optimism that Congressional leaders would reject shortsighted proposals budget savings proposals and look at long-term costs and benefits.

“We know one thing for sure: nobody is going to make this case for us,” he said. “We have to do it ourselves.”

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