by Caleb Reading

There is a piece of vaguely-worded pending legislation in the House that could rectify the problem I spoke about here.  If you are getting diabetic testing supplies or any other durable medical supplies from a pharmacy or know someone who is, or if you are just one of those good people who will care about others without having to have a horse in that race, please contact your representative and ask them to support H.R. 616.  Here is an article from MedicalNewsToday that explains the DMEPOS issue better than I have:

Community pharmacists are the only medical professionals that must meet the new accreditation requirements of Medicare Part B suppliers of Durable Medical Equipment, Prosthetics, Orthotics and Supplies (DMEPOS). H.R. 616 includes language exempting pharmacists from this time-consuming, expensive and redundant rule that was finalized by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) last fall. Under this bill, pharmacists would join the 17 other medical professional who are already conditionally exempted, such as physicians, nurse practitioners and opticians.

Pharmacists have been unfairly singled out for this DMEPOS accreditation rule, but patients will be the ones who truly lose out if this isn’t changed,” said Bruce T. Roberts, RPh, executive vice president and CEO of the National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA), “Representatives Marion Berry [the one from Arkansas, not the one hitting the pipe] and Jerry Moran, who are strong allies of community pharmacies, are offering a solution with H.R. 616. They understand the current policy could prevent patients, especially in underserved areas, from accessing medical supplies that help navigate health challenges such as controlling diabetes”

Community pharmacists possess professional training and expertise and are already subject to government regulation and oversight as state-licensed medical professionals and businesses, who will incur civil and criminal sanctions for violations. In addition, the accreditation fees, training and implementation costs are projected to total at least $5,000 to $7,000, over three years, which is cost prohibitive for pharmacists. The requirement is therefore not only redundant; it’s an unnecessary expense that will harm patient access to quality care.

H.R. 616 needs to pass.  If it doesn’t, I think the store I work at will no longer be able to afford to sell test strips.  We already lose money when we fill those orders because “nobodies” like us in independant community pharmacy can’t get anyone to sell us test strips for less than what Medicaid and insurance companies will reimburse us for them.   We are the only drug store in an underserved community.  We deliver — at no charge — to homebound patients.  When someone comes in for their first testing meter, we aren’t some faceless mail-order outfit in another state leaving the patient with only a poorly-written, microscopic-font instruction manual to explain how to test their blood.    We aren’t a chain store that won’t say a word beyond what’s legally required to because there might be a lawsuit.  When someone comes in here for their first testing meter, we have a diabetic employee who will take out his own meter, poke his finger, and bleed for the patient, showing them exactly how to take their reading and giving them all kinds of pointers and peace of mind about what they’re facing.

Community pharmacy is dying, and everybody seems to be just fine with that as long as they can get a $4 prescription and buy snow tires and cigarettes in the same building.  But what will people in rural communities do?   And how about when you need a store that will go that extra mile for you?