Magazine article Drug Topics

Community Pharmacy Gives Thumbs Down to Bush Rx Card

Magazine article Drug Topics

Community Pharmacy Gives Thumbs Down to Bush Rx Card

Article excerpt

COMMUNITY PRACTICE

It was deja vu--all over again--for community pharmacy leaders who Quickly rejected the Bush Administration's new plan to have Medicare endorse a private prescription drug discount card program for senior beneficiaries.

Private prescription drug discount cards blessed by Medicare were once again the centerpiece of the Administration's proposal released last month by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). The cards are part of a plan to educate seniors about prescription drug programs and generic savings as a prelude to a full-blown Medicare Rx benefit in the future. CMS figures that emphasizing the education component gets around the argument that the agency lacks legal authority for the program.

New provisions of the proposed rule published in the March 6 Federal Register include the requirement that participating drug manufacturers, not just pharmacies, must contribute to discounts. And card sponsors would have to pass savings on to consumers. Medicare beneficiaries would pay a one-time $25 fee for a discount card. Based on projected discounts of 10%-- 13% and the assumption that seniors would spend $13.3 billion on drugs next year, seniors using approved discount cards would save an estimated $1.65 billion in 2003, according to CMS' proposed rule.

Whichever way CMS wants to spin its Rx discount card proposal, the agency still lacks the authority to establish such a program, according to the National Association of Chain Drug Stores and the National Community Pharmacists Association. The two groups had joined forces last July to go to court seeking an injunction to stop the original Rx card proposal on the basis that the Administration had no legal authority to promote the cards without legislation to back the move. A federal judge granted the injunction, halting the program, but granted a stay to allow the government to submit a new proposal.

Following the announcement of the new version of the Medicare-endorsed cards, NACDS and NCPA filed a I motion asking the federal judge to issue an order enforcing the original injunction, because the new program violates that original injunction. The contention is that CMS failed to show statutory authority for the program.

"It's basically the unsuccessful argument they made before," said John Rector, NCPA senior v.p./general counsel. "They've added a few bells and whistles, but they [still] lack the legal authority to implement this program It's like an old, recalled bad medicine in a new container. …

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