SAN DIEGO — State and other government officials lack awareness of the true value that community pharmacy brings, said Warren Bryant, chairman, president and chief executive officer, Longs Drug Stores, Walnut Creek, Calif., and chairman of the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, Alexandria, Va. Bryant spoke during the group's Pharmacy & Technology Conference here late last month.
For example, in California, a court recently blocked cuts in pharmacy reimbursement for Medi-Cal, the state's Medicaid program. “I understand the difficulty of balancing state budgets in a tough economy. But that doesn't change the fact that, in pushing for these cuts, state lawmakers ignored all the evidence out there about the value of pharmacy services and the importance of these services for the state's neediest patients. What this kind of action misses is that pharmacy care actually saves money over the long term,” Bryant said.
To address this, NACDS is involved in several efforts to communicate the value of pharmacy, including the Coalition for Community Pharmacy Action, a coalition of chain and independent drug stores. “Our campaign starts with the pharmacist. We need to do a better job of recruiting, educating and training future pharmacists to meet the growing demands for pharmacy services in a new era in health care,” he said.
One of NACDS' more effective strategies has been “fly-ins,” bringing pharmacists to Washington to meet with legislators and other decision-makers. The association is planning more and bigger such efforts, said Steven Anderson, NACDS president, during the conference.
“We need more white coats on the steps of the United States Capitol,” he said. “This is part of the industry's multifaceted effort to communicate the value, importance and interests of community to government, as well as other audiences, such as consumers, suppliers and payers.
“We are telling the story of this industry. We are establishing NACDS and pharmacy at the center of the health care debate, and from this position we are securing bottom-line results in the form of better public policy,” Anderson said.
“This approach reflects the mentality, the passion and the commitment required of us now. Make no mistake, we have adversaries. We have challenges. Victory is not certain, and it may ultimately be determined by forces beyond our control. But intellectually, and emotionally, we know that what we are fighting for improves lives, and saves lives,” he said.
“I believe that there is tremendous value in the role that community pharmacy plays in the health care system,” Chris Dimos, president, Supervalu Pharmacies, Franklin Park, Ill., told SN. Dimos chaired the conference and also was a speaker. “But I also believe there's an urgency that needs to be applied to the situation so that payers, legislators and consumers share the same feelings and vision that we inside the industry have.”
That value has to be demonstrable, Dimos said. “Pharmacy is in need of some bright spots to show that good work could happen at the industry level. I don't know how much longer payers will put up with our rhetoric unless they can find some true data to support that.”