Preferred pharmacy networks limit choices

From Jason Wallace, president of Pharmacists United for Truth and Transparency

Mark Merritt’s praise for preferred pharmacy networks (“Regulators shouldn’t undermine preferred pharmacies,” Nov. 22) on The Hill’s Congress Blog, fails to address the systematic exclusion of community and independent pharmacies from these networks. 

Merritt describes drugstores excluded from the networks as competitors looking to drive up costs, which is simply untrue. According to a National Community Pharmacists Association survey from earlier this year, 91 percent of community pharmacy owners and operators were not offered the opportunity to be included as a preferred pharmacy.

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This is especially troubling when you consider that approximately 1,800 rural independent pharmacies are the only provider in their communities. This leaves rural patients, who must purchase their medications from a preferred pharmacy to receive their promised savings, to drive 20 miles or more for their basic medications. Meanwhile, community businesses struggle to keep up with large national chains.

Any pharmacy that meets the standards for pharmacy network access should be invited to join. The exclusion of thousands of pharmacies that are well-suited to serve their communities’ needs doesn’t save patients money; it limits their accessibility to care. 

While Merritt is concerned that regulations would limit choice and access to care, he fails to mention that the program has already done just that.  


Congress should heed president’s warning

From Kate Gould, legislative associate for Middle East policy at the Friends Committee on National Legislation

If Congress wants to support a peaceful resolution of Iran’s nuclear program, it should heed the call from President Obama and our diplomats to halt any new sanctions from moving forward (“Obama pleads for time on Iran,” Nov. 19). Passing new sanctions would dangerously undermine the diplomatic progress that our negotiators have worked so hard to achieve. 

While some “lawmakers in both parties have been somewhat skeptical about the talks [with Iran],” there is a growing bipartisan call to test the diplomatic potential for reaching a comprehensive agreement that guards against a nuclear-armed Iran and a devastating war. 

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has rightly urged Congress to show restraint against imposing additional sanctions during the negotiations. He warned in a statement that “it would be counterproductive for Congress to authorize a new round of sanctions, diminishing American leverage and weakening the hands of Secretary Kerry and his counterparts in the P5+1.”

On the other side of the aisle, Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) expressed his support for the negotiations after Secretary of State John Kerry and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew briefed key senators on the importance of holding off on any new sanctions bills. This member of the Senate Banking Committee noted that the secretaries were “doing a pretty good job” of making the case against more sanctions. 

The warnings from the White House and Capitol Hill echo calls from two of the most eminent members of the foreign policy establishment, Zbigniew Brzezinski and Brent Scowcroft. The two former national security advisers released a letter to congressional leaders highlighting the central role that the ongoing nuclear negotiations with Iran play in preventing a nuclear-armed Iran and a devastating war. 

Brzezinski and Scowcroft emphasize the recklessness of piling on more sanctions at this critical juncture in talks, explaining that “additional sanctions now against Iran with the view to extracting even more concessions in the negotiation will risk undermining or even shutting down the negotiations.” 

The U.S. public agrees with our country’s top military and national security officials who have spoken out against attacking Iran, and in support of a diplomatic solution. Twenty-nine organizations, including MoveOn, CREDO, the National Iranian American Council, the Friends Committee on National Legislation and various other non-proliferation groups, recently called on Congress to oppose new sanctions and “work with U.S. negotiators instead of working against them.”

Chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said it best when she pointed out that choosing more sanctions would be choosing to follow a path toward. “If you want a war, that is the thing to do. I don’t want a war. The American people don’t want a war. We’ve had years in Iraq and Afghanistan. This is an opportunity to move in a different path, and we ought to try it.” 

Washington, D.C.


Immigration reform should pass this year

From Orlando Bonilla

I urge our representatives to work to pass an earned path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants currently living in the United States this year.

There’s a growing number of Republicans joining with Democrats to co-sponsor H.R. 15, the new immigration bill in the House. Much of the country depends on agriculture and immigrant workers — lawmakers have every reason to support immigration reform!

Millions of immigrants in our country want a chance to become American citizens. But under our broken immigration laws, they have no way to earn it. I personally know some of these hard-working immigrants, and I think it’s hurting our country to keep them living in the shadows.

Immigration reform is desperately needed. Now we just need a Congress that is ready to get it done.

 

Reston, Va.