Seizing on new study of Part D plans, NCPA urges seniors to choose carefully
ALEXANDRIA, Va. — More than ever, seniors who rely on Medicare need to carefully evaluate the dizzying array of prescription drug plan choices available to them, as the 2011 enrollment period for Medicare Part D drug benefit program goes into high gear, independent pharmacy leaders declared Tuesday.
Faced with the challenge posed by Walmart’s recent launch of a new, low-cost Part D drug plan for Medicare beneficiaries in 2011, in partnership with insurance giant Humana, the National Community Pharmacists Association issued a warning to seniors: look beyond price when making a decision about which Part D plan to sign with for next year. Many independents are clearly concerned over the Humana Walmart-Preferred Rx Plan, which offers Part D beneficiaries a $14.80 monthly plan premium and low co-pays if they obtain their prescriptions from a pharmacy owned and operated by Wal-Mart Stores Inc.
The group cited a new study from health policy consulting firm Avalere Health, which concludes that Medicare beneficiaries still face a dizzying array of choices in drug plans and need to carefully evaluate the pluses and minuses of each before enrolling.
“The study released [today] by Avalere Health underscores the importance for seniors and caregivers of reading the fine print when determining what plan is best for the particular Medicare beneficiary, because some of the headline-grabbing offers might not best meet their medication needs,” NCPA EVP and CEO Kathleen Jaeger said Tuesday.
“Community pharmacists are a valuable resource for patients and caregivers navigating the Medicare Part D prescription drug program maze,” Jaeger pointed out. “More than ever before, a consumer needs to be fully informed about the total prescription drug plan being offered — including deductibles, co-pays and the actual cost of the drug.”
Like her predecessor, NCPA’s new top executive is taking a combative stance vis-a-vis big-box pharmacy rivals. “Sometimes, when something sounds too good to be true, it is,” Jaeger argued. “In some cases, consumers are having their choice of community pharmacies taken away, some plans are pushing mail order pharmacies with 1-800 lines — all of which take the personal interaction out of providing quality care in dispensing medication and corresponding counseling. And, in most cases, the long-established relationships between patients and their community pharmacists are being broken in the quest for a Part D plan to simply increase its market share.
“We can’t let patient care take a back seat to market share,” she added.
NACDS promotes pharmacy’s contribution as NCQA mulls health quality standards
ALEXANDRIA, Va. In another bid to boost the standing of pharmacists in a changing healthcare system, the National Association of Chain Drug Stores urged a leading healthcare think-tank and advocacy group to adopt health quality standards that include a broader role for retail pharmacy professionals.
NACDS submitted comments to the National Committee for Quality Assurance regarding the role of pharmacy in an accountable care organization. Emerging as part of ongoing and sweeping reforms in the nation’s battered health system, ACOs are provider groups that accept responsibility for the costs and quality of care delivered to a specific population of patients, and work to lower those costs while improving care standards.
Founded in 1990, NCQA is a nonprofit organization aimed at improving the quality of the U.S. health system through objective analysis and the development of quality-of-care standards. The group sponsors a task force that developed qualifying criteria as a set of core capabilities that an ACO should demonstrate in order to be recognized as an accountable entity, and sought comments on this draft qualifying criteria.
In a letter to the NCQA, NACDS recommended that pharmacists be included as members of the ACO patient team. “Pharmacists are experts in medication use and serve on interdisciplinary patient-care teams to ensure medications are used safely, effectively and in a cost-conscious manner,” the letter stated.
The chain pharmacy group also urged that NCQA recognize medication therapy management as a core element of an ACO, given its importance in managing care to help improve patient health and reduce healthcare costs.
“Pharmacist-provided MTM is consistent with the goals of ACOs — improving health, improving the patient experience and reducing costs — and should be recognized as such,” NACDS told the health standards-setting organization.
Par begins shipping generic Accolate
WOODCLIFF LAKE, N.J. Par Pharmaceutical has begun shipments of a generic treatment for asthma, the drug maker said Monday.
Par announced that it started shipping zafirlukast tablets in the 10-mg and 20-mg strengths. The drug is a generic version of AstraZeneca’s Accolate.
Accolate has sales of $50 million in the United States per year, according to IMS Health.