NCPA: Lawmakers' Rightly Concerned for Medicare Seniors Managing Diabetes



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Alexandria, Va. - Nov. 7, 2012 The National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA) today commended seven U.S. Representatives for recently writing the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to urge the agency to allow independent community pharmacists to continue same-day home delivery of diabetes test supplies to certain Medicare beneficiaries.

Under current policy scheduled to take effect July 2013, many community pharmacists would effectively be prohibited from delivering these essential medical products to patients who are homebound, or in assisted living communities. The ban on deliveries is a provision included in CMS' competitive bidding policy for diabetes test supplies (DTS).

"When implemented, this policy will cause disruption in the care provided to Medicare patients," the representatives wrote. "We know that many Medicare Part B beneficiaries that are in need of DTS are homebound and may not have a caregiver available to pick up DTS from the local independent pharmacy."

They added, "In our view, this delivery prohibition could result in serious health consequences for Medicare patients and will help drive up costs. We ask that you review this policy expeditiously."

The letter was signed by U.S. Reps. Aaron Schock (R-IL), Peter Welch (D-VT), Jo Ann Emerson (R-MO), Morgan Griffith (R-VA), Brett Guthrie (R-KY), Tom Marino (R-PA) and Louise Slaughter (D-NY).

"These lawmakers are absolutely justified in their concern for seniors and the independent pharmacists who care for them. We appreciate their bringing this issue to CMS' attention," said NCPA CEO B. Douglas Hoey, RPh, MBA. "Pharmacists help reduce health care costs for patients managing diabetes by mitigating the chances for more expensive treatments and interventions, such as hospitalizations. We hope that, through administrative or legislative action, independent community pharmacists can continue providing same-day home delivery to these most vulnerable of patients."

The letter's lead authors, Reps. Schock and Welch, are the original cosponsors of H.R. 1936, The Medicare Access to Diabetes Supplies Act. The bipartisan legislation, endorsed by NCPA, would allow small pharmacies (defined as 10 locations or fewer) to continue to furnish patients with diabetes testing supplies and personalized counseling on their proper use, as competitive bidding is implemented. Independent pharmacies are often located in underserved rural or inner-city locations where there may be few, if any, other pharmacies or healthcare providers around, a fact which a Louisiana pharmacist reinforced in his September 2012 testimony before Congress.

A 2012 survey of more than 400 community pharmacists conducted by NCPA raised serious questions regarding the ability of these pharmacists to remain as DTS providers under a competitive bidding system. Among the findings:

  • About 92 percent of independent community pharmacies would be forced to leave the Medicare diabetes test supply program if presented with a sharp reduction in payments.
  • Over 50 percent of community pharmacies said that the average Medicare diabetic patient comes to their pharmacy at least three times per month for diabetic supplies and/or counseling.
  • Eighty-three percent of community pharmacists said that the impact on patients if they had to obtain diabetes supplies from mail order would be significant.
  • Forty-five percent of community pharmacies deliver diabetes testing supplies to assisted living facilities. (CMS' current competitive bidding proposal would prohibit these pharmacies from doing so.)

The National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA®) represents the interests of America's community pharmacists, including the owners of more than 23,000 independent community pharmacies. Together they represent an $88.5 billion health care marketplace, dispense nearly 40 percent of all retail prescriptions, and employ 300,000 people, including over 62,000 pharmacists. To learn more go to www.ncpanet.org or read NCPA's blog, The Dose, at http://ncpanet.wordpress.com.

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