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 MoranAt the table: The importance of advocating for ABLE GOP lawmakers lead way in holding town halls Yahoo reveals new details about security MORE (R-KS)
- March 3 - companion, bipartisan legislation introduced in the Senate by Senators Sam Brownback (R-KS), Pat RobertsPat RobertsOvernight Energy: Trump to sign orders on offshore drilling, national monuments Watchdog: EPA spending on water pollution campaign was legal Picking 2018 candidates pits McConnell vs. GOP groups MORE (R-KS) and Jon TesterJon TesterDems hunt for a win in Montana special election Tester raises M for reelection The Hill's 12:30 Report 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 BaucusChanging of the guard at DC’s top lobby firm GOP hasn’t reached out to centrist Dem senators Five reasons why Tillerson is likely to get through MORE (D-MT) and Charles GrassleyChuck GrassleyTrump, lower court nominees need American Bar Association review Trump eyeing second Supreme Court seat Grassley: Another Supreme Court vacancy likely this summer 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 SebeliusSebelius on GOP healthcare plan: 'I'm not sure what the goal is here' Obama's health secretary to be first female president of American University Leaked email: Podesta pushed Tom Steyer for Obama’s Cabinet 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.