ALEXANDRIA, Va. — Over 250 people in white smocks are expected to descend March 10 on Capitol Hill to let lawmakers know the value pharmacy provides through medication therapy management in maintaining the nation's health and lowering overall costs.
The event, called RxIMPACT, will be the third advocacy day in Washington sponsored by the National Association of Chain Drug Stores here. Mark Polli, director, pharmacy government and regulatory affairs, Delhaize America, Salisbury, N.C., is an event pioneer since he participated in the first one in 2009 when NACDS faced health care reform legislation.
Polli said all those white lab coats seen down the halls of Congress grab attention and make a credible and positive impression. “They [congressional members] know pharmacy is on the Hill that day and it speaks well for our profession,” he told SN.
He expects to conduct half a dozen meetings that highlight the value of pharmacy and the pharmacist. “The value of pharmacy is huge because health care reform will put more people into the marketplace. We think pharmacists can play a role in filling their needs, in listening to their concerns and giving them appropriate information in return. The pharmacist is a valuable person in the health care solution,” he said.
NACDS advocates will voice their support for Senate Bill 274, introduced this month by Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., and three other co-sponsors, to expand access to MTM services under the Medicare prescription drug program. A previous effort last year on a similar bill died in committee.
Paul Kelly, NACDS vice president of federal government affairs, said MTM is evolving and there has been modest improvement under last year's health care reform.
NACDS was able to get several medication therapy management provisions included in the reform package, including creating a series of grants and pilot programs on MTM and its use in the treatment of chronic diseases; codifying the expansion of MTM to more Medicare Part D beneficiaries, as well as increasing the breadth of available MTM services.
The newly proposed legislation improves the MTM benefit and opens it up for more seniors, ensuring they can receive such services from a pharmacy of their choice and creating a payment structure that assures pharmacies are paid for providing this care.
The bill points out that the overall cost of poor medication adherence (taking medications correctly) is as much as $290 billion per year, or 13% of total health care expenditures. It mentions examples of medical cost savings, including studies such as the Asheville Project, begun in 1996, which provided education and MTM services for chronic conditions, and the ChecKmeds North Carolina program, which provided eligible seniors with one-on-one MTM consultations with a pharmacist.
NACDS expects to have a bipartisan companion bill introduced to the House within the next couple of weeks, said Kelly.
He said NACDS advocates have their work cut out for them this year with 112 new members in the 112th Congress, many focused on debt reduction and entitlement reform. “We have as an industry and profession a lot of education to do with new members. They need to understand the value that pharmacy brings to the health care system and local economy. Our members are not just health care providers but also employers who can create jobs and contribute to the tax base.”
Heidi Ecker, NACDS director of grassroots and advocacy, is responsible for running the event. Last year over 220 meetings were conducted with congressional members and their staff. NACDS participants were represented from over 30 states. Of those participants, about a half dozen supermarket chains participated, including Delhaize America, Giant Eagle, H.E. Butt Grocery, Supervalu, Ukrop's Super Markets (now Martin's operated by Giant-Carlise, an Ahold company) and Winn-Dixie Stores. Mass merchandisers participants were Target and Wal-Mart Stores.
“The strength of the program is the diversity of our advocates,” said Ecker. Besides retail pharmacists, participants include top executives, store managers and pharmacy students and faculty members.