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Pryor Stands Up For Seniors, Community Pharmacists To Improve Medicare Drug Benefit Program

Press Release

Location: Washington, DC

Pryor Stands Up For Seniors, Community Pharmacists To Improve Medicare Drug Benefit Program

Senator Mark Pryor (D-AR) today announced a partnership with Senator Thad Cochran (R-MS) to help pharmacists in rural communities stay in business and continue to provide high-quality care to seniors and the disabled.

"I believe Medicare patients should have gotten a better deal with the Medicare drug benefit passed in 2003, and the program should have recognized the value community pharmacists bring to health care. Now I'm working to improve Medicare benefits for our seniors," Pryor said. "Our bill keeps doors open at community pharmacies, emphasizes consumer choice, and strengthens pharmacists' ability to offer life-saving knowledge to seniors."

The Senators introduced the Pharmacist Access and Recognition in Medicare Act (or PhaRM Act) to assist community pharmacists in rural areas who often serve as a primary point of health care information. First, the bill allows pharmacists to receive prompt payment from participating Medicare private health plans within 14 days of submitting their claims. The Medicare prescription drug benefit, which went into effect in 2006, has caused delays in payments to pharmacists and is partially responsible for more than 1,100 community pharmacies closing last year.

"It's critical that seniors living in small towns throughout Arkansas and across America have easy access to pharmacies. Unfortunately, we're seeing health insurance companies take advantage of a flaw in the law, which is forcing independent pharmacies out of business." Pryor said. "This legislation puts a stop to the monkey business."

Pryor said the legislation also empowers consumer choice by eliminating co-branding on Medicare cards. He is concerned co-branding leaves consumers with the impression that their Medicare card may only be good at a single, large chain pharmacy. In addition, the PhaRM Act calls for a 2-year pilot program that compensates pharmacists that offer Medication Therapy Management Services (MTMS). These services are beneficial to Medicare beneficiaries who take multiple medications or have chronic conditions.

"This bill is an effort to take better care of our seniors," Pryor said. "It makes sense that convenience go along with value. Community pharmacists can also add a great deal of knowledge about side effects and which medications should not be taken together."

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