Bid program for diabetes supplies has real consequences, survey says

Thursday, October 13, 2011

ALEXANDRIA, Va. - The National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA) can now back up its claim that competitive bidding is bad for community pharmacies and their patients.

The association last week released the results of a survey on the impact of competitive bidding on diabetes testing supplies. A whopping 84% of the more than 800 pharmacies that took the survey reported they would stop providing supplies to Medicare beneficiaries if they were required to bid or forced to accept bid pricing.

"We believe this will help to inform the super committee members of the impact of applying the bid rate to us and how it would affect patient access," said John Coster, senior vice president of government affairs for NCPA, during a media call. "We ask members of Congress to take a look at those results as they consider what to include and not to include in their recommendations to the super committee."

In May, Reps. Aaron Shock, R-Ill., and Peter Welch, D-Vt., introduced the Medicare Access to Diabetes Supplies Act, which seeks to exempt community pharmacies with 10 or fewer locations from having to competitively bid for diabetes testing supplies. The bill also seeks to allow those pharmacies to continue delivering supplies. It currently has 12 co-sponsors.

The NCPA is discouraged that, despite numerous complaints about Round 1 of competitive bidding, CMS is moving forward with its mail-order program for diabetes supplies. In August, CMS announced plans for a national program, and although pharmacies and other retail locations are currently exempt from bidding, the agency has said that could change. Additionally, the agency plans to apply bid prices to all diabetes supplies by 2016.

"(Beneficiaries in Round 1 areas) are confused about where to go to get (supplies) or are being pressured to switch to a different strip or they are just generally dissatisfied with the service they are getting," said Coster.

The NCPA's survey also takes aim at CMS's definition of mail order. In 2010, the agency expanded that definition to include any supplies shipped or delivered, by any means, to the beneficiary's home. That's a problem because 81% of community pharmacies regularly deliver supplies, with 28% making 30 or more deliveries per month, according to the survey.

Also in the survey: 81% of pharmacists say the average Medicare diabetes patient visits his or her community pharmacy twice or more each month for counseling or to obtain supplies. That's something the patient wouldn't be able to do if these pharmacies stopped doing business with Medicare.

"Community pharmacists are indispensable to helping combat diabetes, whether it is the counseling they offer, the medications they dispense, the lifestyle modification classes they provide, or the testing supplies they carry," stated Doug Hoey, NCPA executive vice president and CEO, in a release.