May 05, 2015

Manchin, Capito Introduce Legislation to Preserve Access to Community Pharmacies

Washington, D.C. - Senators Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) introduced legislation today to help preserve senior citizens’ access to the prescription drugs and important healthcare services provided by community pharmacies. The bill, Ensuring Seniors Access to Local Pharmacies Act, S. 1190 is also cosponsored by Senators Tom Cotton (R-AR) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH).

“The Ensuring Seniors Access to Local Pharmacies 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,” Senator Manchin said. “It will also help protect the small, independent pharmacies that serve such an important role in rural communities. I am proud to cosponsor this bipartisan legislation with Senator Capito, and I plan to continue working with her and my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to continue finding commonsense fixes to our healthcare system.”

“Community pharmacies play a critical role in providing healthcare and medication to rural Americans who live in far reaching parts of our state and may otherwise have a lengthy drive to a larger city,” said Senator Capito. “The Ensuring Seniors Access to Local Pharmacies Act will allow seniors to maintain access to Part D prescription medications and qualify for the potential cost savings from preferred pharmacies.”

The Ensuring Seniors Access to Local Pharmacies Act of 2015 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, allow community pharmacies to compete and preserve access to medical services in underserved areas.  

"Local pharmacies play a critical role in rural states like Arkansas where larger, chain pharmacies can often be hours away. But many of these local pharmacies are struggling to keep their doors open because pharmacy benefit managers refuse to include them in their coverage. This bill would allow smaller pharmacies in Arkansas and across the country to accept the same contract terms as larger, in-network pharmacies. Rest assured, I will continue to fight for access to quality medical care in Arkansas’s rural communities," said Senator Cotton.

“Many Medicare beneficiaries live on fixed incomes and struggle to afford their prescription drugs. Especially for those living in rural and underserved areas, the cost of filling a prescription out-of-network could lead seniors to forgo filling needed medications,” said Senator Brown. “By allowing pharmacies in rural and underserved areas to participate in preferred networks, we can help seniors fill prescriptions and seek guidance on their medications without having to pay more out-of-pocket or travel to a participating pharmacy. This fix would expand access for all seniors regardless of their location, improve competition, and cut prescription drug costs.”

Under existing law, Medicare Part D plans permit any willing pharmacy to participate in the plan’s network and many have created separate preferred pharmacy networks. Currently, more than 86 percent of Part D plans now include preferred pharmacy networks, up from 15 percent just five years ago. A senior must either travel to a pharmacy that is in the preferred network, which in rural areas can require significant travel, or pay higher co-payments or co-insurance to continue using their local pharmacy. 

This bill is a companion to H.R. 793, The Ensuring Seniors Access to Local Pharmacies Act, which currently has 38 bipartisan co-sponsors in the House of Representatives.