Chain drug stores laud Webb for defense of Tricare

The chain drug store lobby is cheering Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) this week for his vocal opposition to cuts in military healthcare spending. 

The National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS) is concerned that cuts to Tricare, the military's health insurance program, will cause beneficiaries to skip some of their prescribed medications. 

Webb, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Personnel subcommittee, told reporters Wednesday that that he supports Defense Department efforts to trim wasteful spending, but will fight proposals to scale back Tricare benefits.

For that position, he's found fans at the NACDS.

"We recognize that the Department of Defense (DoD) is struggling with healthcare costs, just like other payers," NACDS President Steven C. Anderson wrote to Webb on Friday. "However, we agree with the subcommittee that savings are more likely to be found through improving business practices and encouraging preventive care, rather than increasing premiums, co-payments and other beneficiary cost sharing."

The group says that pushing more costs on military personnel would cause some patients not to buy needed medications, leading to even higher costs down the line. 

"We know that the annual cost of medication non-adherence is staggering — the New England Healthcare Institute estimates it to be $290 billion a year — 13 percent of total healthcare expenditures," Anderson wrote.

The letter arrives as top Pentagon leaders eye cuts to healthcare as a way to rein in DoD spending. Earlier in the year, Defense Secretary Robert Gates warned that healthcare costs “are eating the Defense Department alive,” The Hill's Roxana Tiron reported this week. 

More recently, Gen. Norton Schwartz, the Air Force chief of staff, cautioned that skyrocketing health costs could force the agency to scale back vital defense programs, Tiron wrote.

“We have to recognize that if we are not careful, these unbounded costs can force out military content elsewhere in the Department of Defense portfolio,” Schwartz said earlier this month.