Senator Michael B. Enzi
Introduction of the Pharmacist Access and Recognition in Medicare Act
Medication Therapy Management Services Bill
Mr. President, I rise to introduce the Pharmacist Access and Recognition in Medicare Act. I have enjoyed working closely with Chairman Cochran and Senator Talent on this bill that will help protect the valuable role that pharmacists play in our communities.
I have spent a lot of time over the past few months traveling around my home state of Wyoming talking to seniors about the new Medicare prescription drug benefit. This new voluntary benefit represents the most significant improvement to Medicare since its inception in 1965. Because of this new benefit, more seniors have prescription drug coverage and are able to purchase the medicines they need. Since the benefit took effect on January 1, 2006, 17,700 beneficiaries in Wyoming have signed up for prescription drug coverage and 27 million beneficiaries nationwide have drug coverage. I encourage all beneficiaries to enroll in a prescription drug plan before May 15, 2006.
I strongly support our community pharmacists. The changeover to Medicare Part D hasn’t been easy and has produced several obstacles they have had to deal with as they have worked to serve Medicare beneficiaries. In traveling around my state over the past few months, I have talked to a few pharmacists who mentioned a few key problems they are facing with this new Medicare program that I believe we should address.
The first is an issue of cash flow management. As the only accountant in the United States Senate, I understand this problem. Most pharmacists have to pay their wholesalers like clockwork two times a month, but they are not receiving their reimbursement from the prescription drug plans in a similar timely fashion. This bill changes that. The bill states that plans have to reimburse all “clean claims” every 14 days. The bill also facilitates a quicker reimbursement by specifying that claims submitted electronically shall be paid by electronic transfer of funds. This is a small change in the law that I believe will play a large role in helping ease the transition to the new program for our local and community pharmacists.
The second issue I have heard about is called co-branding. Some of the prescription drug plans have partnered with some of the larger pharmacies and the plans are putting pharmacy logos on the benefit cards the beneficiaries use to get their prescriptions filled. Some people have told me that this is very confusing, because beneficiaries think that they must go to the pharmacy listed on the card. My bill says that co-branding is no longer allowed and all newly issued cards will not have pharmacy logos on them.
The final thing this bill does is expand upon what was in the Medicare bill that passed in 2003 regarding medication therapy management programs. I am pleased to say that Wyoming is ahead of the curve in this area. A few years ago, the Wyoming Department of Health partnered with the University of Wyoming to provide a service called Wyoming PharmAssist, which directly connects patients with registered pharmacists to review their medications for possible drug interactions and duplications. I was pleased to learn that this service is more advanced than systems in other states, providing patients with ways to reduce their monthly medication costs while improving safety. The Wyoming PharmAssist program can save clients $152 per month and $1,844 a year. Wyoming PharmAssist pays registered pharmacists for these unique services and is a model for the nation. My bill tries to make the Federal program more like the very successful program in Wyoming.
I commend all the pharmacists across the country who are working so hard to make this new Medicare program work. They are getting life saving drugs to seniors who may not have been able to afford them before. I am proud to say I voted for this program back in 2003 and I am pleased with all the progress we are making.
Mr. President, I believe the Senate operates under what I call the 80/20 rule. 80 percent of the things that get done around here are non-contentious issues with support from both parties. The other 20 percent are the contentious issues that we seem to spend all our time talking about. I think this bill falls into the 80 percent category. This is a small bill that will do a lot of good for our pharmacists. It has wide support and I look forward to working with Chairman Grassley to help move this bill through his Committee.
I invite my colleagues to join me and Senators Cochran and Talent as sponsors of this bill to allow pharmacists to continue to provide the best quality care for seniors and the disabled who rely on them for their medications.
I ask that the text of the bill following my statement be placed in the Record.
I thank the Chair, and I yield the floor.