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NCPA: Members left out of the FSA mix


ALEXANDRIA, Va. A new Internal Revenue Service requirement intended to ensure that flexible spending account debit cards are used only for eligible purchases, has produced a wave of logistical problems for independent community pharmacies, putting them at an unfair, competitive disadvantage, the National Community Pharmacists Association announced Friday.

However, for those NCPA members who signed on for FSAok AutoCopay, a service announced by NCPA on July 8, there have been no issues, NCPA noted.

Since the IRS mandate took effect, community pharmacists who had installed an appropriate “point-of-sale” system and/or qualified for the “90%” exemption from the requirement have had transactions involving FSA debit cards consistently rejected, NCPA noted.  And calls to the Special Interest Group for IIAS Standards, a standards-setting body that oversees the new requirement, can take several business days to initially reach a representative.

As a result, community pharmacists are being told to send their patients to their larger chain competitors.

“Independent community pharmacies have been consistently and comprehensively disadvantaged in transactions of the type SIGIS was established to equitably facilitate,” NCPA EVP and CEO Bruce Roberts, wrote in a letter to SIGIS.

“We are receiving consistent complaints from our membership that SIGIS and its processes are opaque, unresponsive and lack transparency. Worse, our members consistently find that SIGIS is unresponsive and unhelpful,” he commented. “The processes and procedures being used by SIGIS appear to disadvantage small community and independent pharmacies, and in doing so, hurt their ability to compete in the marketplace with SIGIS’ large corporate members,” Roberts continued. “This is a source of grave concern to NCPA and our members.”

NCPA officials raised these concerns in a July 23 conversation with SIGIS officials and are hopeful the group will take prompt measures to alleviate some of the problems community pharmacies are experiencing.  Specifically, the NCPA letter requests the following actions:

  • Establish a dedicated independent pharmacy help-desk that is answered by a live individual during regular business hours. All inquiries received via e-mail or on after-hours voicemail should be responded to within 24 hours; 
  • SIGIS should facilitate and expedite the acquisition of merchant codes by community pharmacies within 24 hours. In addition, community pharmacies should not be classified as e-merchants or placed in a non-medical category;
  • SIGIS should notify pertinent parties when an error occurs in the application process within 24 hours for all applicant types;
  • SIGIS needs to notify pertinent parties when amendments of applications occur so that an independent pharmacy, the acquirer or other relevant party is made aware of any new information within 24 hours;
  • SIGIS should notify and make available to plan administrators and card processors the list of newly certified merchants on a daily basis;
  • SIGIS should send correspondence to all plan administrators advising them to stop directing employees/patients to particular pharmacies or pharmacy chains.

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