PHARMACY

Wal-Mart and adversaries unite for healthcare reform

BY Mike Troy

BENTONVILLE, Ark. Shared responsibility and cost containment are essential elements to healthcare reform, according to a letter submitted Tuesday to President Obama by a coalition consisting of Wal-Mart, the Service Employees International Union and the Center for American Progress.

“As the nation’s largest private employer, the nation’s largest union of healthcare workers with over 1 million members and a think-tank that has been a leader on healthcare policy, we have worked closely in support of healthcare reform since 2006, when we came together to help break the stalemate that had defined the healthcare debate for too long,” stated a letter signed by Wal-Mart president and CEO Mike Duke, Service Employees International Union president Andy Stern and Center for America Progress president and CEO John Podesta. “Now, to move the debate forward once again, we are coming together to advance what we believe are important proposals that should be included in the current efforts to reform our nation’s healthcare system. We believe now is the time for action on this vital issue.”

It was a little hard to tell exactly what type of action the executives were calling for in a letter that was short on specifics and long on sweeping generalities about difficult choices that lay ahead, the necessity of reform to improve global competitiveness and the need to work together. However, it was argued that payment reform and efficiency initiatives need to be at the center of healthcare reform because, “healthcare reform without controlling costs is no reform at all.”

Reform measures also should advocate shared responsibility, where everyone makes some contribution to his or her healthcare, and there needs to be assurance of cost containment if employers agree to coverage mandates. “Not every business can make the same contribution, but everyone must make some contribution. We are for an employer mandate which is fair and broad in its coverage, but any alternative to an employer mandate should not create barriers to hiring entry-level employees,” the letter stated.

Clearly, the devil will be in the details as measures related to mandated coverage, efficiency measures and shared responsibility are put forth and debated. But as the executives made clear in their letter, the nation already is feeling the effects of a dysfunctional healthcare system, and failing to act now is not an option.

To bolster their call to action, the executives cited some interesting statistics in the letter. For example, in 2008, half of all people filing for home foreclosure cited medical problems as a cause. In addition, the trio cited a study in the journal Health Affairs, which suggested the higher taxes and premiums needed to meet rising healthcare costs threaten to consume the benefits of nearly all economic growth over the next four decades. A study by the Center for America Progress also was cited, which indicated the U.S. economy loses $244 billion every year in lost productivity due to the uninsured.

In a separate statement, Wal-Mart’s EVP corporate affairs and government relations Leslie Dach noted the nation is entering a critical time when those who will be asked to pay for healthcare reform have to make choices on whether to support legislation. “The choice will require employers to consider the trade-off of a coverage mandate and higher taxes for the promise of a reduction in healthcare cost increases,” Dach said. “We also believe that a mandate must be accompanied by provisions that will reduce health costs and dramatically improve the value we get for our healthcare dollar.”

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NACDS Marketplace Conference kicks off with Meet the Market format

BY Drug Store News Team

BOSTON It was a cool and crisp day as attendees filed into the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center Sunday to take part in the National Association of Chain Drug Stores Marketplace Conference annualized Meet the Market format, which this year represented more than 8,000 face-to-face pre-arranged appointments, including 270 retailers representing some 80 companies.

The Meet the Market format, where smaller and new suppliers are able to secure 10-minute meetings with their category buyers, takes on greater value in a recession economy, where many retailers are cutting more SKUs from their planograms than they’re slicing in, noted Larry Lotridge, NACDS VP conference services. “We know when the economy’s tight you still want to get in front of the retailers,” he said, “because our industry is still selling.”

Lotridge noted one supplier last year negotiated a 100-store test run in Walmart after an initial meeting at Meet the Market. This year, Lotridge said, that supplier is likely to secure full distribution with the mass marketer. “You want to be the company with the product on the shelf,” he said.

And such formats as Meet the Market are opportune to help new or small companies accomplish just that.

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NACDS, NCPA endorse Rep. Mike Ross’ MTM legislation

BY Allison Cerra

ALEXANDRIA, Va. Two pharmacist organizations announced their support for H.R. 3108, the Medication Therapy Management Benefits Act of 2009, sponsored by Rep. Mike Ross, D-Ark.

The bill was introduced on June 26, and immediately was referred to the Committee on Energy and Commerce and Committee on Ways and Means, two House committees with jurisdiction over comprehensive healthcare reform legislation.

Pharmacist-provided medication therapy management involves a licensed pharmacist’s work with a patient to review, monitor and identify problems with a patient’s medication plan.

“We appreciate the hard work and dedication of Rep. Ross as he continues to advocate for pro-patient and pro-pharmacy healthcare reform legislation in Congress,” stated National Association of Chain Drug Stores president and CEO Steve Anderson. “Rep. Ross’ bill signifies the importance of pharmacist-provided medication therapy management for improving medication adherence, enhancing patient health and reducing long-term healthcare costs.”

National Community Pharmacists Association EVP and CEO Bruce Roberts also supported the bill, stating that MTM improves patients’ adherence and their outcomes through the utilization of pharmacists’ expertise. “H.R. 3108 will expand the pool of Medicare Part D patients that can access this valuable service and recognize pharmacists for the savings they provide to the healthcare system,” Roberts said. “We thank Congressman Mike Ross for introducing this bill, and urge other members of the House to support it. We call on the Senate to introduce similar legislation. Ultimately, for healthcare reform to be fully successful, it must include proposals such as this to improve quality while lowering overall costs.”

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