From: The Hill’s Congress Blog

By Rep. Aaron Schock (R-Ill.)

As diabetes plagues our nation, countless seniors rely on diabetic testing supplies (DTS) from their local pharmacists in order to live with and manage their disease. Unfortunately, an expansion of Medicare’s Competitive Bidding Program could disrupt that relationship and make it harder for seniors to obtain their DTS. This cannot happen. The House Small Business subcommittee hearing today offers the opportunity to re-examine the critical issue of ensuring continuity in how our seniors access essential diabetes testing supplies and face-to-face counseling on their proper use.

The Healthcare and Technology subcommittee will hold a hearing that examines Medicare’s approach to the competitive bidding process for certain medical products. Caught in the middle are some of our nation’s most vulnerable patients, particularly those in underserved rural and inner-city areas.

Many seniors choose to obtain their diabetes testing supplies from independent community pharmacies. There they have a trusted relationship with their neighborhood pharmacist who can provide face-to-face consulting.

Unfortunately, applying competitively bid pricing to independent community pharmacies would result in financially unsustainable reimbursement cuts. Virtually every one of these pharmacies would have to stop providing these important supplies to customers they have known for years, according to surveys done by these small business health care providers.

Such an outcome would create severe challenges for diabetes patients and their families.

Competitive bidding can jeopardize the health outcomes of these seniors because pharmacists work with them to correctly manage their diabetes. This type of prevention avoids costlier medical interventions in physicians’ offices or hospitals.

Additionally, in smaller and rural communities, seniors have fewer options than their counterparts in larger cities and towns. There are 1,755 rural communities in which the independent community pharmacy is the only pharmacy provider for miles around. For these patients, their access to in-person consultation would be cut off with nowhere else togo to meet their needs.

To avoid these catastrophic results, I am urging my colleagues in the House to support my bill, H.R. 1936, the bipartisan Medicare Access to Diabetes Supplies Act,  which would allow competitive bidding to proceed, while exempting the smallest independent community pharmacies that have little to no chance to break even on a pricing structure intended for large, national warehouse operations.

To help patients properly use and read their test strips and meters, and preserve their access to local pharmacies where they can obtain face-to-face consultation, Congress should support H.R. 1936. Schock is a member of the House Administration Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee.