On HHS Nominee Price’s Healthcare Principles, Pharmacy Makes a Powerful Case

During his Senate confirmation hearing this week and since being nominated for Secretary of Health and Human Services, U.S. Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.) has focused on six principles of healthcare reform: affordability, accessibility, quality, innovation, responsiveness, choices. In fact, Rep. Price has focused on those principles for some time – he described them in an op-ed column in The Hill back in 2013 and likely many times before that during his Congressional and medical careers.

Importantly, pharmacy’s contributions to healthcare affordability, accessibility, quality, innovation, responsiveness and choices are highly regarded among Republicans, Democrats and independents alike.

To be sure, these terms are cited frequently across party lines. The real debate exists in the details of how these principles are best achieved. I cannot help but note at this pivotal time in our nation’s healthcare policy skirmishes that pharmacy makes a powerful case for its role in advancing all of these principles. Consider the following:

Affordability: In a national survey commissioned by NACDS, 65 percent of respondents said pharmacists are credible information sources on opportunities to save money.

Accessibility: Nearly all Americans (91%) live within five miles of a community pharmacy.

Quality: In a national survey commissioned by NACDS, more than seven-in-ten respondents who are considered heavy users of pharmacy services reported favorable opinions of pharmacies – which is a very strong rating in comparison with other segments of healthcare delivery.

Innovation: NACDS’ training program to advance pharmacy-based pharmacogenomics – a form of personalized medicine that involves using genetic data to ensure medications are used in a safe and effective manner – presents but one example of the industry’s commitment to innovation.

Responsiveness: NACDS’ training program to advance pharmacy-based point-of-care testing for flu, strep and other acute and chronic conditions reflects pharmacy’s ability to improve options available to patients regarding the manner and environment in which they are treated.

Choices: NACDS advocates strongly for patient choice, and an example of this is maintaining a co-payment structure that secures military families’ and veterans’ ability to choose community pharmacies over mail order as the source for their medications. The Congressional Budget Office has found that higher copayments “cause some chronically ill beneficiaries to stop taking their medications, resulting in more doctor visits and hospitalizations” which drive up costs.

Importantly, pharmacy’s contributions to healthcare affordability, accessibility, quality, innovation, responsiveness and choices are highly regarded among Republicans, Democrats and independents alike. NACDS’ top priority right now is to translate that high regard into pro-patient and pro-pharmacy policies that leverage the industry’s value while assuring its viability. Related issues that will demand substantial effort this year include advocating for appropriate reimbursement amid potential changes to the Affordable Care Act; for enactment of the pharmacist provider status legislation; for the Department of Defense’s implementation of the TRICARE pilot that was authorized late last year; and for remedies for the current application of direct and indirect remuneration (DIR) fees; among other issues.

To be sure, uncertainty is among the characteristics defining the current healthcare policy environment. But if affordability, accessibility, quality, innovation, responsiveness and choices are among the standards that will be applied to any future changes, pharmacy has strong legs to stand on – and NACDS intends to make pharmacy’s case with absolute passion and clarity.

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