Bill reintroduced to help seniors access prescriptions and health services

U.S. Sens. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., and Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., reintroduced legislation Thursday to help seniors access prescription drugs and health care services provided by community pharmacies. 

The Ensuring Seniors Access to Local Pharmacies Act, also co-sponsored by Sens. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., and Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, will provide individuals on Medicare Part D more flexibility to choose pharmacies in their communities without paying additional costs.

“In states like West Virginia, community pharmacies are vital resources that many families and individuals in rural areas rely on for their health care needs,” Capito said. 

“The Ensuring Seniors Access to Local Pharmacies Act will enable seniors to use trusted pharmacies close to home while also qualifying for the cost savings of Medicare’s preferred pharmacies.”

Manchin said the act is an important step in allowing seniors to go to their preferred pharmacies without paying higher out-of-pocket costs for the medications that they need every day. 

“It will also help protect the small, independent pharmacies that serve such an important role in rural communities in West Virginia,” Manchin added. “I am proud to cosponsor this bipartisan legislation and I plan to keep working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to continue finding commonsense fixes to our health care system.”

Under current law, Medicare Part D plans permit any state board-certified pharmacy to participate in the plan’s network, and the overwhelming majority of Part D plans have created separate preferred pharmacy networks. However, many community pharmacies are not included in preferred pharmacy networks within the Medicare Part D program. 

As a result, many seniors must either travel to a pharmacy that is in the preferred network or pay higher co-payments or co-insurance to continue using their local pharmacy.

The Ensuring Seniors Access to Local Pharmacies Act of 2017 would require that community pharmacies in medically underserved areas (MUAs), medically underserved populations (MUPs) and health professional shortage areas (HPSAs) be allowed to participate in Medicare Part D preferred pharmacy networks if they are willing to accept the contract terms and conditions of existing preferred providers. 

The bill will give seniors more choice when it comes to selecting a pharmacy, allow community pharmacies to compete with larger providers, and preserve access to medical services in underserved areas.  

By:  Wendy Holdren
Source: Beckley Register-Herald