Norquist says Republican pharmacy proposal 'incentivizes' Medicare fraud

A healthcare proposal from the House's highest-ranking Republican woman "incentivizes" Medicare fraud, anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist wrote this week.

"The bill takes the wrong approach to reforming oversight practices in the pharmaceutical industry," Norquist told Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) in a letter.

"Rather than ameliorate concerns regarding waste, fraud and abuse, the bill will exacerbate them, potentially at a high cost to taxpayers."

"Real reform should look to prevent fraud, but H.R. 1971 incentivizes it," Norquist said.

McMorris Rodgers is vice chairwoman of the House Republican Conference.

At issue is her proposal, H.R. 1971, which wades into a longstanding conflict between local pharmacies and pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs), which process prescriptions for insurance companies and corporations.

McMorris Rodgers said she disagreed with Norquist's take on the bill.

"The bill would increase competition and promote transparency, and it would make the delivery of pharmacy services much more efficient," she said in a statement.

"It’s endorsed by the National Community Pharmacists Association, which is the leading organization for America’s pharmacists. Increasing transparency is extremely beneficial to the process, and this bill does exactly that," she said.

The bill would require PBMs to establish written contracts with local pharmacies before making them responsible for filling prescriptions, among other provisions.

In all, it aims to "give small pharmacies new tools and protections that will allow them to compete in a market dominated by large corporations," McMorris Rodgers wrote in March.

Norquist, however, said the bill "adds regulatory burdens to PBMs while holding other players in the industry harmless."

He also said PBMs would be unable to prevent pharmacies from overfilling prescriptions under the bill.

"Under H.R. 1971, a pharmacy can fill an order for 2,000 prescriptions rather than 20 and will still be guaranteed payment for 2,000 orders.

"This presents a huge concern for taxpayers who may be on the hook for fraudulent orders processed through Medicare," Norquist wrote. 

Norquist is the president of Americans for Tax Reform (ATR), one of Washington's leading anti-tax groups.

It is known for its "Taxpayer Protection Pledge," under which lawmakers promise to oppose "any and all tax increases."

McMorris Rodgers has signed the pledge, according to ATR's website.