From America's Pharmacist, May 2000

Patient Bill of Rights
The House/Senate conference negotiators on the bipartisan Norwood/Dingell/Ganske/Berry bill are increasingly optimistic that they can complete their work this spring. While leaders Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) and Rep. Richard Armey (R-Texas) have recently concurred with NCPA’s longstanding view that insurance companies should be held accountable, including via litigation, the National Association of Chain Drug Stores recently told Rep. Marion Berry (D-Ark.) and other conferees that they strongly oppose the bipartisan provision that would expose health plans to legal liability.

Of course, both patient groups and health care provider groups support health plan accountability. Patients want to have the pharmacist of their choice. A recent Drug Topics consumer survey indicated that 82 percent of consumers were satisfied with independents’ services, 64 percent satisfied with mass merchandiser pharmacy service, 59 percent satisfied with supermarket service, and only 55 percent satisfied with chain pharmacy service. NCPA and consumer groups are very frequently on the same side of major national issues.

Bankruptcy Reform
NCPA has for several years been a member of the Coalition for Financial Responsibility. The House and now the Senate have approved H.R.833 and S.625. A joint conference committee will now fashion the final legislation to address bankruptcy abuses highlighted by NCPA and other business associations.

Free Trade
Bipartisan support continues to grow for legislation to remove barriers for importing prescription drugs. There has been tremendous media attention focused on the NCPA-endorsed International Prescription Drug Parity Act. H.R.1885 now has 81 cosponsors; Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) has added his name to S.1191, and Senate candidate Hillary R. Clinton has endorsed the Senate bill. Additional bills have been introduced by Reps. Ron Paul (R-Texas) (H.R.3636) and Gil Gutknecht (R-Minn.) (H.R.3342). Congressmen Gutknecht and Greg Ganske (R-Iowa) have recently observed to House colleagues that when it comes to prescription drugs, there is no free trade.

H.R.1885 mandates that only pharmaceuticals already approved by the FDA will be allowed to enter the U.S. marketplace and recognizes the role of enforcement of those laws at the border by the federal agencies.

Seller Financing
NCPA, principally through its involvement with the Small Business Legislative Council (SBLC), has been working fast and furious on a proposal to restore the installment method of accounting for accrual basis taxpayers, which was prohibited by a law enacted last year entitled the "Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Improvement" Act. This law would make sales of pharmacies to publicly held drug store companies more likely.

Medicare Pharmacy Benefit
Virtually every day has brought a new development on the Medicare issue. Among them are these headlines: Governors oppose a state-based program... House Commerce Republicans support a benefit for all and reject low-income target or state-based... House and Senate budget committees provide $40 billion ($4 billion more than the White House) for Medicare pharmacy... Senate GOP takes on drug makers... Senate passes Gorton/Jeffords resolution targeting discriminatory pricing by drug makers... White House asserts that coverage of pharmacists services is essential for Medicare program... NCPA provides Medicare Pharmacy testimony to three key Committees.

House to Vote on H.R.1304
In a major victory for NCPA members, 26 of the 37 House Judiciary Committee members voted to send H.R.1304 to the House of Representatives. The committee was meeting on the bill during our Legislative Conference, which gave us a perfect opportunity to effect the outcome. As one might expect, the opponents were shocked, but are regrouping to intensify their attack on this bipartisan bill. For example, the New York Times, which normally supports patient rights and services, did a 180 and on April 8, 2000, editorialized against H.R.1304 as creating a doctors’ cartel.

The Congressional Budget Office has determined that the maximum increase in private insurance premiums associated with H.R.1304 would be 2.6 percent. This assumes that insurance companies who mistakenly claimed the increase would be more than 13 percent would not have their profits reduced through negotiations. Also the CBO estimates that the independent pharmacists who negotiate under this new authority would increase their net margin on average by 15 percent annually. Please do everything you can do to help your representative vote for H.R.1304.

Authored by John Rector, NCPA Senior Vice President for Government Affairs and General Counsel, "Notes from Capitol Hill" is a monthly update on NCPA’s lobbying activities and other important legislative news from Washington.

National Community Pharmacists Association

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