More Flexibility Required
However, a provision that the retail pharmacy industry would like to see amended in the health care reform law is the requirement for consumers to obtain a prescription in order to purchase over-the-counter medicines with a Flexible Spending Account (FSA) debit card.
“We believe this provision is counter to the goal of increasing access to affordable health care options and has made FSA redemptions more complicated and costly for businesses and consumers. The changes [in the Affordable Care Act] also omitted about one-third of the estimated 40,000-plus FSA-eligible items that can be purchased in a retail grocery store with an FSA debit care without a prescription despite significant investments recently made by the industry in store technology and infrastructure to continue selling FSA-eligible items,” explained Polley.
She noted the inconvenience factor with the new rules sending shoppers unnecessarily back to the busy pharmacy counter to fill over-the-counter prescriptions instead of going directly to the front end.
“Legislation to fix the treatment of FSA OTC purchases has been introduced and has the potential to move as part of a larger vehicle this year,” said Polley.
But, she noted, “Cost concerns in the current deficit environment continue to be the largest roadblock.”
Pharmacy advocates recognize the challenges of getting favorable passage of important bills in a presidential election year where the focus is on deficit reduction.
Two reauthorization bills on the docket could see action, however.
As Congress prepares to reauthorize The Prescription Drug User Fee Act, effective through September 2012, the prospect of tracking raw materials and increasing inspections in foreign manufacturing facilities is being explored. The initiatives are being considered as a means of helping to address recurring problems with prescription drug diversion and quality.
“We don’t think track-and-trace really enhances safety and security in the drug supply system. We do oppose that as overly burdensome to our members,” said Kelly of NACDS.
NCPA said it wants to assure that community pharmacists can continue to serve their patients under reauthorized PDUFA, which may include provisions to address risk evaluation and mitigation strategies (REMS), to promote supply chain security, to regulate Internet pharmacies and to implement a strategy to address current and prevent future drug shortages.
Tricare, the Department of Defense’s managed health care program for the military and their families, also is up for reauthorization for 2013.
FMI said it would continue to advocate for the ability of retail pharmacy establishments to fill prescriptions for military beneficiaries on a level playing field with DOD pharmacies and mail order facilities.
“We are advocating for equality in copayments and that beneficiaries are not steered or forced into mail order run by Tricare or within their onsite facilities. Many military retirees and their extended families live in communities and not on a military base so they would like to continue to using their corner supermarket pharmacy to fill their prescriptions,” explained Polley.