ALEXANDRIA, Va., Dec. 10 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), chair of the Senate Finance Committee, is negotiating directly with House leadership on a must-pass Medicare bill this year. Baucus had contemplated having a Medicare-Medicaid mark-up in his committee last week, but with Congress' scheduled adjournment coming soon; he opted for this expedited option. Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.), chair of the House Ways & Means Committee; Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif.), chair of the House Ways & Means Health Subcommittee; Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.), chair of the House Energy & Commerce Committee; and Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), chair of the House Energy & Commerce Health Subcommittee, will each play a key role in any compromises to follow. In response Bruce Roberts, RPh, executive vice president and CEO of the National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA) issued the following statement:
"If the first role of government is to do no harm, then the U.S. Congress will be shirking its duties if it leaves for the holidays without acting on pressing legislative matters regarding the present and future viability of community pharmacies.
"Congress must correct flaws in Medicare and Medicaid that hinder community pharmacies' ability to provide patients with prescription drug services and undermine the basic tenets of our free market system. Business acumen should determine whether community pharmacies are successful, not unnecessarily slow Medicare reimbursements and irresponsibly low Medicaid reimbursements that cause serious financial distress.
"Congress can fix this two-headed problem, but a sense of urgency in Congress is needed to stop the hemorrhaging of community pharmacies. Pharmacy benefit managers, who get paid to administer prescription drug plans in advance, have deliberately delayed paying community pharmacies for their Medicare Part D prescription drug claims. As a result these 'drug middlemen' earn interest off the float accrued from the loans cash-strapped community pharmacies are forced to take out. This unscrupulous practice was the driving factor in five percent of community pharmacies closing in 2006, with every indication that trend has continued in 2007.
"Making matters worse, early next year Medicaid will institute cuts averaging 36 percent below the acquisition cost of Medicaid generic prescription drugs according to the Government Accountability Office. This may force additional pharmacy closures that will put patients in the untenable position of having to find more expensive, less convenient, and limited prescription drug services.
"We urge the Senate and House leadership to include the common-sense provisions contained in the specific legislative fixes pending in Congress--for Medicare the bills are S.1954 and H.R.1474, and for Medicaid the bills are S.1951 and H.R.3140/3700."
The National Community Pharmacists Association, founded in 1898, represents the nation's community pharmacists, including the owners of more than 23,000 pharmacies. The nation's independent pharmacies, independent pharmacy franchises, and independent chains dispense nearly half of the nation's retail prescription medicines. To learn more go to http://www.ncpanet.org.
|SOURCE National Community Pharmacists Association|
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