Pharmacy Groups Endorse HR 616--January 2009

January 29, 2009
Eileen Koutnik-Fotopoulos

Pharmacy groups expressed support of HR 616 introduced by Reps Marion Berry (D, AR) and Jerry Moran (R, KS) that aims to correct unfair treatment of community pharmacists.

Community pharmacists are the only medical professionals that must meet the new accreditation requirements of Medicare Part B suppliers of durable medical equipment, prosthetics, orthotics, and supplies (DMEPOS). The bill includes language exempting pharmacists from this rule that was finalized by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) last fall.

“It is essential that community pharmacists continue to provide patients with quality health care,” said Rep Moran. “Community pharmacists are the only licensed medical professionals subject to this unnecessary and unfair CMS regulation. To guarantee their equal treatment, Congressman Berry and I introduced this legislation which will ensure that pharmacists can continue to provide the equipment and services necessary to keep patients healthy.”

Without the adoption of HR 616, 3 immediate issues will arise: (1) many community pharmacies will discontinue providing DMEPOS services for their patients; (2) patients in underserved communities will have to travel much longer distances to get these services, or even be forced to use mail order and Internet operations where fraud is more prevalent; and (3) if pharmacists stop providing DMEPOS services, patients will lose their advice and expert training, which would dramatically undermine the potential benefits of these medical supplies.

“In rural areas, including many small towns across Arkansas, community pharmacists are often the only medical professionals available who can supply this vital equipment to patients,” said Rep Berry. “The current law threatens the ability of patients to get the supplies and care they must have to stay healthy. This bill will ensure Medicare patients have access to the supplies they need while also helping community pharmacies keep their doors open.”

The National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA) and the National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS), 2 of the 4 groups supporting the legislation, commented on the introduction of the bill.

“Pharmacists have been unfairly signaled out for this DMEPOS accreditation rule, but patients will be the ones who truly lose out if this isn’t changed,” said Bruce T. Roberts, RPh, executive vice president and chief executive officer of NCPA.

NACDS President and Chief Executive Officer Steven C. Anderson, ION, CAE, concurred, “As the most accessible health care providers, pharmacies and pharmacists play a crucial role in the management of chronic diseases, such as diabetes, and are an essential provider of diabetic supplies and Medicare Part B medications.”

For other articles in this issue, see:

Clinical Pharmacists Worth the Investment

Stimulus Plan Likely to Include Health IT

FDA Needs Broad Reforms, Says Government Watchdog

FDA Issues Strong Warning on Topical Anesthetics