As community pharmacists continue frontline efforts against the COVID-19 pandemic, direct and indirect remuneration (DIR) fees continue to pose substantial financial risk to pharmacies across the nation. Long have these varying and expansive costs burdened independent pharmacists, only exacerbated by the operational challenges presented by the onset of the coronavirus.
However, amid the developing pandemic, a bipartisan call-to-action has recently surfaced that not only presents much needed financial relief for pharmacies, but also reinforces the importance of the pharmacist as a critical healthcare provider within the community.
To understand the solution, let us first run the numbers.
The cost of doing business
According to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), DIR fees have grown by a staggering 45,000 percent between 2010 and 2017. As the National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS) reports, inflated DIR fees often yield dire consequences for community pharmacies with more than 2,000 sites forced out of business over the previous two years. While this cost burden can be detrimental to the longevity of pharmacies in ordinary times, it is especially debilitating during an unprecedented national health and financial crisis.
A recent analysis by the National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA) found that 66 percent of independent pharmacies are experiencing negative cash flow issues stemming from COVID-19 operational expenses, decreased reimbursement, and the prevalence of DIR fees. In fact, half of surveyed pharmacy-owners report that they have paid more than $10,000 in DIR fees since the beginning of March. At this rate, the average independent pharmacy is on track to have more than $100,000 clawed back in the next 12 months!
For years, calls for reform have been made without success. However, as community pharmacists continue to serve their communities as the most accessible providers of clinical care, essential changes to policy may soon occur.
Lawmakers are listening
Fortunately, in a time when many are divided, both in perspective and proximity, the role of the pharmacy as a healthcare destination appears to have established common ground among many of our nation’s lawmakers. A recent bipartisan letter, drafted by more than 100 members of the U.S. House of Representatives, supports the prohibition of DIR clawbacks as part of future coronavirus relief efforts.
“Now more than ever, our pharmacies are working hard to support patients despite the financial strain they were facing even before this pandemic,” said Doug Collins, member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Georgia’s 9th district. “That’s why I support including pharmacy DIR clawback reform in the next coronavirus aid package to keep pharmacies stabilized.”
With strong bipartisan support in both the House and the Senate, lawmakers conclude with a demand to keep pharmacies open during the crisis, stating that “members of Congress will not overlook the critical need to ensure the sustainability of pharmacies during this public health emergency.”
Next steps with the PrescribeWellness solution
As legislation continues to take form amid the developing pandemic, proactive solutions are needed now, more than ever, to help pharmacies increase engagement opportunities, improve patient loyalty, and reinforce profitability. Technology-enabled services provided by PrescribeWellness, a Tabula Rasa HealthCare® solution, help streamline operations to ensure pharmacies are capitalizing on enhanced patient care and revenue opportunities. Through the PrescribeWellness solution, comprehensive engagement services, including multi-channel patient communications, medication synchronization, and Part D plan reviews, elevate the role of the pharmacist to ensure optimal business performance and patient retention.
With an average 4.94 Medicare Star Rating, pharmacies equipped with the PrescribeWellness solution have experienced proven success through optimized workflow and improved adherence.
Additionally, as COVID-19 continues to affect communities across the nation, PrescribeWellness remains committed to serving our community pharmacy partners through educational resources to promote operational strength and resilience.
Resources such as our in-depth webinar series, designed to provide pharmacists with the latest COVID-19 guidelines, including the operationalization of a specimen collection for patient testing, ensure that our partners remain informed and equipped during these challenging times.
For more information on how PrescribeWellness can support your community pharmacy during the developing coronavirus pandemic, contact us today through the form below.