Pharmacy group opposes nat'l competitive bidding

Thursday, August 31, 2006

ALEXANDRIA, Va. - Medicare's national competitive bidding proposal could hinder access to home medical equipment and supplies and create huge administrative burdens for pharmacists, says the National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA).
The NCPA is particularly concerned with expensive accreditation requirements for pharmacists who are alread y licensed and highly educated.
"There are no margins to begin with and to make them go through a process that can cost tens of thousands of dollars just doesn't make sense," said NCPA Executive Vice President and CEO Bruce Roberts. "We're already highly regulated."
Such burdens could affect the availability of DME, prosthetics, orthotics and supplies as well as Part B medications, immunizations, therapeutic shoes and nebulizers, said the NCPA report.
"Pharmacists are already highly educated, licensed by the state and uniquely qualified to serve as the medication and medical device expert for their patients," said Roberts. "To require an additional level of accreditation to sell durable medication, such as diabetes testing strips, is unnecessarily burdensome and unfairly stacks the deck against family pharmacies."
CMS estimates that 90% of Medicare Part B suppliers--of which pharmacies comprise the biggest percentage--will participate in NCB.
However, a recent NCPA survey showed that only 31% of community pharmacies in the first 10 likely metropolitan statistical areas said they planned to participate. Most cited concerns about the financial requirement and administrative burden of the bidding process and accreditation. The initial accreditation is anticipated to take 70 hours to complete at an estimated cost of $7,000 to $17,000, according to the NCPA.
"The long-term effects will be a decrease in beneficiaries' access to their local community pharmacy," said Roberts.
Mary Nicholas, executive director of the Healthcare Quality Association on Accreditation in Waterloo, Iowa, which accredits pharmacies, said she has heard from some pharmacies that they may discontinue certain products rather than go through the hassle of accreditation. But she said accreditation benefits both providers and customers.
"I hope there's a happy medium for these businesses," said Nicholas.
Roberts said the association is working with Congressional leaders and CMS to get pharmacies exempted from HME accreditation.
"I have not given up that we will be able to bring some positive resolution, at least from our perspective," said Roberts. "If it stands and we're not successful, then we have a real job to get folks to understand it and help them with the process."