Sen. Baucus’ pharmacy-friendly bill ‘must be enacted,’ NACDS chief urges


ALEXANDRIA, Va. The National Association of Chain Drug Stores is heaping praise on Sen. Max Baucus, D.-Mont., for his introduction today of pharmacy-friendly legislation to address Medicaid prescription payment cuts and other threats to the industry.

Baucus, who is chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, included a number of key provisions affecting pharmacy in legislation introduced on the floor of the Senate with bipartisan support. The bill, marked up as S.3101, would delay implementation of Medicaid cuts, speed up payments to pharmacies in the Medicare Part D drug benefit program and spur the rollout of electronic prescribing.

NACDS president and chief executive officer Steve Anderson is calling the Baucus bill “must-enact legislation,” and is urging its quick passage in time to head off a plan by the Bush Administration and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to cut reimbursements to pharmacies for generic drugs dispensed under Medicaid.

“Today marks an important step for the nation’s pharmacies, but we have a long road ahead,” Anderson warned. “This bill is must-enact legislation, for pharmacies’ vitality, patients’ health and the economic wellness of communities.

“The delay until September 2009 of Medicaid pharmacy reimbursement cuts will provide more time to provide a long-term solution to the pharmacy reimbursement model, which would reimburse pharmacies below cost for Medicaid prescriptions,” Anderson added. “It also removes imminent financial peril facing many pharmacies.”

NACDS’ president also commended a provision of the bill that requires prompt payments for Medicare prescriptions, which he said have been subject to “lower and slower” payments from the prescription drug plans administering the Part D program.

“We also are pleased,” Anderson noted, “that the legislation includes provisions that will encourage physician adoption of e-prescribing, a critical health information technology system that fosters secure two-way communication between pharmacies and other healthcare providers, for the enhanced medication therapy and safety of patients.”

Stephen Giroux, president of the National Community Pharmacists Association, issued a statement praising the bill, as well:

“Chairman Baucus has included two provisions in his Medicare bill that will assure access for the patients of America’s 23,000 community pharmacies. Our members and their patients are counting on these provisions to become law to assure their access to prescription drugs. The first provision ends the deliberately slow payment of Part D claims that force community pharmacies to maintain cash flow by taking out huge loans; while the second one delays the implementation of a fundamentally-flawed Medicaid reimbursement formula that forces community pharmacies to be reimbursed below actual generic prescription drug cost.” 

NCPA and NACDS had filed a successful lawsuit in late 2007 that stopped the implementation of the reimbursement rule from taking effect on its original date of Jan. 30, 2008. The legal process is still ongoing. 

Anderson framed the Baucus bill in stark terms. “We are facing the forced closure of pharmacies if this bill is not enacted,” he asserted. “That means health consequences, emergency room visits and catastrophic care when patients do not take their medications, and lost economic activity and jobs in communities.

“We commend Chairman Baucus for introducing this important legislation,” Anderson said. “This further demonstrates his support of pharmacy on this issue, which also was reflected in his introduction of the Fair Medicaid Drug Payment Act (S. 1951). We also thank Senators Olympia Snowe, D-Maine, Jay Rockefeller, D-W.V., and Gordon Smith, R-Ore., for their original co-sponsorship of S. 3101.

“We are committed to helping to build continued and growing support in both parties, and at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, for this bill. The bottom line is that it must be enacted.”

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