NACDS pleads with House panel on tough DME bidding restrictions

2/11/2009

WASHINGTON A plan by Congress to force pharmacy retailers to bid competitively for the right to sell durable medical equipment, prosthetics, orthotics and supplies to Medicare patients should be scrapped because it would limit patients’ access to those products and make it virtually impossible for many pharmacies to compete in that business, the National Association of Chain Drug Stores warned lawmakers today.

In written testimony to the House Committee on Small Business Subcommittee on Rural Development, Entrepreneurship and Trade, NACDS expressed concern about a proposed federal expansion of the competitive bidding program to include diabetic supplies, including glucose monitors and even testing strips. The group also urged the panel to overturn plans by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to include diabetic supplies in the national mail-order program for federally funded pharmaceuticals and health supplies.

Either move, NACDS warned, “could limit participation by pharmacies and reduce diabetic patients’ access to life-saving supplies and services. Second, as CMS moves forward with the first round of competitive bidding, it is critical that contract suppliers’ marketing practices be subject to strict oversight by CMS, and [that] any communication to diabetic patients contain information about the continued availability of diabetic supplies at retail pharmacies.”

In its testimony, NACDS reminded lawmakers that “many Medicare beneficiaries obtain their DMEPOS, particularly diabetic supplies, from their local pharmacy.

“In fact, a recent study conducted by HealthPolicy R&D found that nearly two-thirds of older diabetic patients obtain their diabetic test strips from retail-based community pharmacies,” the group noted.

NACDS also pleaded with members of the House subcommittee to “consider the competitive bidding program within the context of a broader set of difficulties pharmacies and patients face in the DMEPOS program.

“CMS’ recent initiatives, such as the requirement for pharmacies to obtain accreditation and a surety bond in the amount of $50,000 per location create significant administrative and financial burdens for pharmacies, resulting in the likelihood of beneficiary access difficulties,” added the pharmacy group.

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