NCPA stays the course

Thursday, May 24, 2012

While CMS’s announcement of one large home medical equipment category for the re-compete of Round 1 seems like it could pose problems for community pharmacists, stakeholders say they plan to keep the focus on issues with the national mail-order program for diabetes testing supplies.

“That’s our biggest area of HME that our members do, that they care about the most,” said Chris Smith, director of policy and regulatory affairs for the National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA). “That’s where we are seeking to create change.”

The association has long sought to exclude small pharmacies from bidding for diabetes supplies, but it’s been tough to gain traction. The Medicare Access to Diabetes Supplies Act, introduced in May 2011, which seeks to exempt independent pharmacies with 10 or fewer locations, has 28 co-sponsors.

With the bid window closed on the national mail-order program for diabetes testing supplies, the association plans to push the bill as legislative opportunities arise.

“It’s not a bill that’s going to pass as a standalone,” said Smith. “There are some vehicles that might move through in the summer, but more likely it’s going to go at the end of the year through some extender bill.”

One of the arguments for excluding pharmacies from bidding for diabetes supplies has been that they don’t do high enough volumes to be able to compete. That same argument could be made for HME like canes, walkers and commodes, which are now included in the same category as hospital beds and patient lifts—something a pharmacy might not do.

“There’s a concern,” said Smith. “It’s an extension of our argument with regard to diabetes testing supplies. It could create access problems. You are limiting the number of suppliers.”