HEALTH

NCPA: Members left out of the FSA mix

BY Michael Johnsen

ALEXANDRIA, Va. A new Internal Revenue Service requirement intended to ensure that flexible spending account debit cards are used only for eligible purchases, has produced a wave of logistical problems for independent community pharmacies, putting them at an unfair, competitive disadvantage, the National Community Pharmacists Association announced Friday.

However, for those NCPA members who signed on for FSAok AutoCopay, a service announced by NCPA on July 8, there have been no issues, NCPA noted.

Since the IRS mandate took effect, community pharmacists who had installed an appropriate “point-of-sale” system and/or qualified for the “90%” exemption from the requirement have had transactions involving FSA debit cards consistently rejected, NCPA noted.  And calls to the Special Interest Group for IIAS Standards, a standards-setting body that oversees the new requirement, can take several business days to initially reach a representative.

As a result, community pharmacists are being told to send their patients to their larger chain competitors.

“Independent community pharmacies have been consistently and comprehensively disadvantaged in transactions of the type SIGIS was established to equitably facilitate,” NCPA EVP and CEO Bruce Roberts, wrote in a letter to SIGIS.

“We are receiving consistent complaints from our membership that SIGIS and its processes are opaque, unresponsive and lack transparency. Worse, our members consistently find that SIGIS is unresponsive and unhelpful,” he commented. “The processes and procedures being used by SIGIS appear to disadvantage small community and independent pharmacies, and in doing so, hurt their ability to compete in the marketplace with SIGIS’ large corporate members,” Roberts continued. “This is a source of grave concern to NCPA and our members.”

NCPA officials raised these concerns in a July 23 conversation with SIGIS officials and are hopeful the group will take prompt measures to alleviate some of the problems community pharmacies are experiencing.  Specifically, the NCPA letter requests the following actions:

  • Establish a dedicated independent pharmacy help-desk that is answered by a live individual during regular business hours. All inquiries received via e-mail or on after-hours voicemail should be responded to within 24 hours; 
  • SIGIS should facilitate and expedite the acquisition of merchant codes by community pharmacies within 24 hours. In addition, community pharmacies should not be classified as e-merchants or placed in a non-medical category;
  • SIGIS should notify pertinent parties when an error occurs in the application process within 24 hours for all applicant types;
  • SIGIS needs to notify pertinent parties when amendments of applications occur so that an independent pharmacy, the acquirer or other relevant party is made aware of any new information within 24 hours;
  • SIGIS should notify and make available to plan administrators and card processors the list of newly certified merchants on a daily basis;
  • SIGIS should send correspondence to all plan administrators advising them to stop directing employees/patients to particular pharmacies or pharmacy chains.

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Diagnostic Devices in contract with two states for Medicaid-covered blood glucose monitoring systems

BY Michael Johnsen

CHARLOTTE, N.C. Diagnostic Devices on Wednesday announced contracts with the states of Illinois and Missouri around Medicaid coverage of its Prodigy line of blood glucose monitoring systems and test strips.

“We will continue working with other states for coverage under their Medicaid programs, and to demonstrate to them the savings Illinois and Missouri taxpayers will realize with the Prodigy family of products,” stated Rick Admani Abulhaj, Diagnostic COO.

A recent study by University of Florida PharmD candidates found the “talking” feature of the Prodigy AutoCode meter made a “significant improvement” in overall diabetes control and compliance among patients who took part, the company noted.

The Prodigy Voice meter for blind or low-vision diabetes patients has been honored with awards from both the National Federation of the Blind and the American Foundation for the Blind, the company added.

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Planned Parenthood: Healthcare reform should include women

BY Allison Cerra

NEW YORK An executive of a healthcare provider’s local chapter wants the new healthcare reform to include women.

Paula Gianino, the president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri, said in her column that the state governor’s Medicaid cuts reduced or eliminated insurance benefits for Missourians. Currently, 1-in-6 Missourians are uninsured, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

“In 2003, the Missouri House eliminated a successful and cost-saving program that gave 30,000 Missouri women access to family-planning services,” Gianino wrote in a recent column.

Planned Parenthood serves more than 50,000 women each year by providing them with examinations, including pap smears, breast exams and tests for sexually transmitted diseases.

“In our current healthcare system, women of childbearing age spend 68% more on out-of-pocket expenses than men,” Gianino said. “A recent report by the Department of Health and Human Services titled ‘Roadblocks to Health Care: Why the Current Health Care System Does Not Work for Women’ shows that ‘women are more vulnerable to high healthcare costs… [because] women’s reproductive health requires more regular contact with health care providers, including yearly pap tests, mammograms, and obstetric care.’ And a 2009 survey conducted for the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists found that women are delaying their annual exams as a result of the economic downturn.”

Additionally, a 2008 Kaiser Family Foundation study reported 67% of uninsured women went without needed care because of cost, as did nearly 20% of women with insurance.

“If we do not act, a health care reform proposal could be passed by Congress and sent to the president that eliminates access to previously covered services like pap smears, breast exams and comprehensive reproductive health care and that eliminates the ability to choose one’s provider of choice,” Gianino said. “This would be a huge setback for women in America.”

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