A lot happened in 1968. The Vietnam War was raging. Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy were assassinated. Pharmacist Hubert Humphrey ran for president. Astronauts orbited the moon. And, NCPA held its first Pharmacy Congressional Fly-In in Washington, D.C.
NCPA's Fly-Ins have become a spring rite of passage for thousands of community pharmacy owners over the past 50-plus years. They know that in politics you are either at the table or on the menu! Regular attendees know that unpredictable sweltering, freezing, or monsoon-like weather has not deterred community pharmacists from making the trip to Washington D.C. to meet with their elected officials and tell them what they need to help their small business provide local jobs, generate tax revenue, and take care of patients back home.
This is the week that NCPA's 2022 annual Legislative Fly-In was scheduled. Instead, for the first time since 1968, NCPA has semi-voluntarily chosen to reconfigure it and make it sort of a "fly-out" rather than a "fly-in." NCPA was one of the first, if not the first, pharmacy association to have a legislative fly-in event, so I can assure you this decision was not made lightly.
Due to the advanced scheduling required to reserve space for the annual Hill reception and hotel contract requirements, we had to decide in late winter whether or not to have the annual event. COVID-19 and the shutdown of the Capitol were the major factors that went into the decision. But there was another reason too. We expect the CMS final Medicare Part D Rule on DIRs to be the primary advocacy focus. Its release is unpredictable, but our crystal ball has it coming out any day now. The final Part D rule has arguably the single most important legislative or regulatory impact on your business since Medicare Part D represents 36 percent of the average independent pharmacy's business.
The best place to start the conversation with your legislators is to invite them to come to your pharmacy. Get them behind the counter. Show them where the magic happens! Most elected officials have no clue unless they are pharmacists how many patients/voters you touch on a daily basis or the daily battles you wage on their behalf against the PBM overlords to help them get their medications and vaccinations. (We're fortunate to have two pharmacists — Rep. Buddy Carter (R-Ga.) and Rep. Diana Harshbarger (R-Tenn.) — in Congress now, but that leaves us 533 to educate!)
Over the next few months, you're going to hear more about our upcoming NCPA August Month of Advocacy. August can be a busy month with back to school and vacations, so look at your calendar now to find weeks when you could host a member of Congress in your pharmacy. NCPA staff is always ready to help with pharmacy visits, and we're ramping up our efforts on that front. We have created a video that will walk you through a visit and give you pointers on how to get the most out of the time you've got. You'll start seeing lots of information, advice, and ideas in qAM and other communications over the next few months but if you have a question now, send an email to Michael Rule.
Independent pharmacy owners are known for being resilient and nimble. Those traits have come in handy during the pandemic. And NCPA's repurposing of the 2022 Fly-In is an example of how together we are adjusting and setting the table so independent pharmacy owners are at it and not on it.
B. Douglas Hoey, Pharmacist, MBA