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Pharmacy-endorsed Medicare bill passed in Senate


WASHINGTON After weeks of lobbying and pleas from chain and independent pharmacy advocacy groups, the U.S. Senate passed a landmark bill late Wednesday afternoon that would provide relief to retail pharmacies on issues ranging from Medicaid reimbursement cuts to faster Medicare prescription payments.

Following a 69-30 cloture vote to proceed with debate, the Senate moved immediately to agree to final passage of H.R. 6331, more commonly known as the Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act.

The House of Representatives passed the bill by an overwhelming margin in late June, but it got hung up during a procedural vote in the Senate the same week.

“Passage by both the House and now the Senate of this legislation is a victory for pharmacies across the country,” said National Association of Chain Drug Stores president and chief executive officer Steve Anderson. “We applaud the Senate for following the House’s lead in passing this bill. The pro-pharmacy measures in this legislation are essential to fostering better patient care and preserving access to pharmacy services.”

The bill will postpone until Oct. 1, 2009, a plan by the Bush administration to cut Medicaid reimbursements for generic drugs via a formula based on the average manufacturer price. It will also require prescription drug plans to speed up payments for Medicare Part D drug claims from pharmacies, by imposing a 14-day reimbursement cycle; require weekly updates of posted Medicare prescription drug prices; and postpone the rollout of Round 1 of the new competitive bidding requirement for durable medical equipment under Medicare Part B.

“Without a delay in implementation of the new AMP reimbursement formula under Medicaid, pharmacies will face devastating cuts. As a result, 11,000 pharmacies could close, eliminating 300,000 jobs and $31 billion in economic activity nationwide,” Anderson had stated. “Millions of Americans are at risk of losing access to pharmacies, especially in rural and inner-city areas with high Medicaid populations.”

Though the bill was championed by many pharmacy advocacy groups, including NACDS, the Generic Pharmaceutical Association, the Food Marketing Institute and Pharmaceutical Care Management Association, a number of senators were concerned about the aspects of the bill that addressed the Medicare reimbursement formula for doctors, who had faced an 10.6 percent pay cut. However, as Drug Store News reported earlier today, NACDS’ Anderson vehemently asserted that this was only one issue of many affecting patient access to affordable health care.

“With Senate and House votes displaying a veto-proof majority, we urge President Bush to sign the bill quickly, said Anderson. “Pharmacies and the patients we serve should not wait any longer for this measure to be enacted into law.”

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