In a significant victory for pharmacy, the New York State legislature recently finalized its 2015 budget negotiations with a favorable outcome for community pharmacy. The legislature rejected an executive branch proposal to change how New York’s Medicaid program reimburses pharmacies for prescription medications, which would have reduced payments to pharmacies by $82 million annually, according to estimates, by setting the price for drugs based on a three-month rolling average acquisition cost (AAC).

NACDS worked collaboratively with a variety of stakeholders to advocate against the proposal and to generate media coverage of the proposal’s negative impact if enacted. spoke with Mike Duteau, vice president of business development and strategic relations for Kinney Drugs, Inc., and president of the Chain Pharmacy Association of New York, to discuss his role as a media spokesperson on the successful collaborative effort that helped bring about the favorable outcome.  

Q: This was a big victory for pharmacy that involved a collaborative advocacy effort. How did you become involved as a spokesperson for the issue?

A: As Vice President of Strategic Relations for Kinney Drugs and President of the Chain Pharmacy Association of New York State, my role often includes involvement with legislative issues as well as media interaction. I’m very grateful that the Chain Pharmacy Association and my company, Kinney Drugs, encourage and fully support my involvement at the highest level possible.

Q: Why do you think it was important to advocate for a rejection of Gov. Cuomo’s proposal to change how New York’s Medicaid program reimburses pharmacy for prescription medications?

A: Had this severely flawed Medicaid reimbursement model been implemented, the impact on pharmacy and our patients would have been catastrophic. Reimbursing pharmacies substantially below cost for prescriptions is not a sustainable business model.  This could have resulted in greatly decreased patient access; loss of jobs for pharmacy employees; and even pharmacy closures. As healthcare providers, we have an obligation to protect those patients we care for and the communities we serve.

Q: What does the positive outcome on this issue mean to you personally?

A: I’m very appreciative that the governor, as well as the Senate and the Assembly, realized what was at stake and that their actions ultimately ensured that New York pharmacies can continue to care for our patients. I became a pharmacist because I enjoy helping people lead healthier lives. Participating in this process—and helping preserve patient access to pharmacy care across New York State—has been an extremely rewarding experience personally and professionally.

Q: Can you speak to the collaborative nature of this advocacy effort? What other stakeholders were involved?

A: This was definitely a collective and collaborative effort by all representatives of the pharmacy profession. The members of the Chain Pharmacy Association worked very closely with the Pharmacists Society of the State of New York (PSSNY) as well as other pharmacy organizations throughout the entire process. NACDS also played a critical role in supporting our efforts. The Medicaid AAC proposal was a serious threat to pharmacy and all of our patients, potentially affecting all settings, including chain, independent and hospital pharmacies. The profession was united in our stance that this program would lead to devastating financial losses, impacting our ability to continue to care for our patients. And not caring for our patients isn’t an option.

Q: Would you serve as a media spokesperson again on pharmacy advocacy issues?

A: Absolutely! I enjoy the opportunity to represent the profession of pharmacy in this capacity and look forward to collaborating with others as we strive to advance and improve patient health outcomes across New York State.