Washington, D.C.  – The National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS) and the National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA) this week urged Congress to maintain access to care for military families and veterans as the legislative process begins for the FY2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

In a letter to House and Senate Armed Services Committee leadership that urged no further pharmacy copayment increases, NACDS and NCPA emphasized that TRICARE beneficiaries—especially veterans and families of active duty military—“are concerned about being able to access the services they need.”

“Copay increases place even greater financial burdens on TRICARE beneficiaries and unfairly penalize TRICARE beneficiaries who prefer to use local pharmacies,” NACDS and NCPA wrote. “Additionally, restricting beneficiary access and raising copay amounts can have the unintended effect of reducing medication adherence, resulting in decreased health outcomes and increased use of more costly medical interventions, such as physician and emergency room visits and hospitalizations. These additional costs are often shifted to other federal programs.”

NACDS and NCPA pointed to a report by the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission that strongly recommended policies that support patient choice and access. The organizations stated that when the Congressional Budget Office reviewed proposals for copay increases in prior Congresses, it concluded that the move would “result in an increase of over $1 billion in other federal spending for medical services, particularly in Medicare.”

NACDS and NCPA have remained highly engaged in efforts over the years to preserve pharmacy access and choice for TRICARE patients. In this week’s letter, the organizations urged Congress, as it considers policies to control Department of Defense spending, to avoid policies like copayment increases and instead support the implementation of the “Pilot Program for Prescription Drug Acquisition Cost Parity in the TRICARE Pharmacy Benefits Program.” The pilot program was included in the FY2017 NDAA and has the potential to reduce costs while also restoring TRICARE patient access to medications and services from their neighborhood pharmacies.