Push for pharmacy exclusion gains strength

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

WASHINGTON – A bill that seeks to exempt pharmacists from Medicare's surety bond requirement was introduced May 1 by U.S. Sens. Jon Tester, D-Mont., and Pat Roberts, R-Kan.

The Preserve Patients Access to Reputable DMEPOS Providers Act of 2009, S. 956, is a companion to a house bill introduced in April. Both bills would exempt pharmacists from having to obtain $50,000 surety bonds. The requirement went into effect in May for new providers. Existing providers must have bonds in place by October 2.

Certain professionals are already exempt from the requirement, including physicians, orthotists and prosthetists, clinical social workers and dieticians. The National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA) has said that pharmacists are licensed healthcare professionals who should be treated like others on the exempted list.

If now, too many regulations may force small independent pharmacists to opt out of Medicare altogether, says the NCPA. That could harm beneficiaries.

"This legislation is important to maintaining patient access to essential medical supplies, such as diabetes testing strips," said Bruce Roberts, executive vice president and CEO of the association, in a statement. "It allows patients to continue relying on their trusted local pharmacies as a one-stop shop where prescription drugs, medical advice and supplies are available and health outcomes are maximized."