WASHINGTON -- The legislative debate over the Medicare prescription benefit may take a hiatus during the presidential campaign, but it will resume sometime next year, said Craig Fuller, president and chief executive officer, National Association of Chain Drug Stores, Alexandria, Va.
"I do believe that either the second term of the Bush administration or the Kerry administration will not be able to leave Medicare alone," Fuller said during a speech at the Retail Conference of the Magazine Publishers of America, New York, here last month. "So in 2005, I do believe we'll see more legislation enacted to amend, change and tweak ... that which was done last year."
NACDS actively participated in the process aimed at "modernizing Medicare," but ultimately did not take a position when the reforms came up for vote, Fuller said. "The greatest fear we had about the initial efforts at modernizing Medicare and providing a prescription drug benefit is that the benefit would be run entirely, without many rules or guidelines, by pharmacy benefit managers who themselves have chosen to compete with retail pharmacy with their large mail-order programs," Fuller said.
"That would be a little bit like me arguing, 'Trust me, just let Wal-Mart run the pharmacy drug benefit for seniors, and everything will turn out OK.' People would have said, 'That's ridiculous. Wal-Mart didn't even ask me to do that.' But there are three or four large PBMs that asked for that responsibility," he said.
NACDS' objection to the initial efforts to run the program over the PBMs was based on one priority: "to keep people coming to our stores." Fuller said.