By National Community Pharmacists Association Executive Vice President and CEO Bruce T. Roberts, RPh
The past 12 months have been filled with plenty of constructive legislative activity in this area:
- Feb. 25 - bipartisan House pharmacy exemption bill introduced by Representatives Anthony Weiner (D-NY), Marion Berry (D-AR) and Jerry MoranJerry MoranSenate panel advances ticket bots crackdown Overnight Tech: GOP says internet fight isn't over | EU chief defends Apple tax ruling | Feds roll out self-driving car guidelines | Netflix's China worries GOP pressures Kerry on Russia's use of Iranian airbase MORE (R-KS)
- March 3 - companion, bipartisan legislation introduced in the Senate by Senators Sam Brownback (R-KS), Pat RobertsPat RobertsSenate panel approves pension rescue for coal miners Congress set for Saudi showdown with Obama GOP pressures Kerry on Russia's use of Iranian airbase MORE (R-KS) and Jon TesterJon TesterOvernight Healthcare: Mylan CEO to defend record on EpiPens | Medical cures bill delayed to lame duck | House GOP hopeful about Zika deal Tribes open new front in fight over pipelines Dem lawmakers: Clinton should have disclosed illness sooner MORE (D-MT)
- Oct. 13 - President Obama signs into law bipartisan legislation, authored by Representatives Zach Space (D-OH), Lee Terry (R-NE), Senators Max BaucusMax BaucusChina moves to lift ban on US beef Overnight Healthcare: Zika fight stalls government funding talks | Census finds big drop in uninsured | Mental health bill faces wait Glover Park Group now lobbying for Lyft MORE (D-MT) and Charles GrassleyChuck GrassleyThe Trail 2016: Fight night Clinton, Trump tied in Iowa, Grassley leads in Senate race Senate rivals gear up for debates MORE (R-IA), delaying Medicare's accreditation deadline for pharmacy 90 days to Jan. 1, 2010
- Nov. 7 - House passes health care reform bill including DMEPOS fix
- Dec. 24 - Senate passes health care reform bill with DMEPOS pharmacy exemption
But, unfortunately for patients and pharmacists, there's still no permanent solution.
In deference to the will of Congress, Medicare has held off enforcing the accreditation requirement on pharmacies this year. Recognizing the sense of urgency, on Jan. 26 Senate Finance Chairman Baucus and Ranking Member Grassley sent a letter to HHS Secretary Kathleen SebeliusKathleen SebeliusRomney: Trump victory 'very possible' Fighting for assisted living facilities The chaotic fight for ObamaCare MORE strongly reinforcing Congress' support for pharmacies on this issue.
Unfortunately, the recent uncertainty surrounding health care reform legislation is changing Medicare's outlook. Program officials told NCPA that on Feb. 12 they would begin sending notices revoking the DMEPOS billing rights of unaccredited pharmacies. NCPA estimates that about a third of the 20,000+ independent pharmacies selling DMEPOS are not presently accredited.
Many of these pharmacies are in underserved rural or urban areas, giving patients few alternatives to meet their medical needs. Even those pharmacists who completed the accreditation process face re-accreditation two years from now. With pharmacy reimbursement on a downward spiral, there's no guarantee that these pharmacies will all be in a position to absorb those time and financial costs again.
President Obama's recent budget proposal included a significant boost for anti-fraud efforts in Medicare. Certainly, reasonable and aggressive efforts should be taken to ensure taxpayer dollars are spent properly. But, in the case of DEMPOS, pharmacists have been unfairly lumped in with fraudsters.
We urge lawmakers to preserve seniors' access to essential medical supplies and enact this revenue-neutral legislation this month.