The term "mom and pop" business had always bothered me. I thought it sounded a bit condescending and dismissive when I would hear representatives from big businesses talk about it, almost like they were giving small business owners a little pat on the head. But Wednesday was "Mom and Pop Business Owner's Day," and my attitude about the phrase evolved during a week in D.C. when independent pharmacies were in the spotlight.
The Hill is an inside-the-beltway media company, widely read by congressional staff and agency staff members. I was invited to be on a panel with a representative from Astellas, the National Minority Quality Forum, and PCMA. You can watch the panel discussion here on The Hill's website.
One of the questions I was asked was:
What do you hear from patients coming to the pharmacy counter that Washington should hear more?
Washington should hear that it's a very stressful experience because when that prescription is written by their prescriber, they're not sure what their experience is going to be for that medication. Will their insurance plan allow them to use the drug? Will their insurance plan try to steer them into one of the health insurer's affiliated pharmacies as PBMs have now acquired pharmacies? Patients wind up being unsure how they are going to get their medication and some, finally, just give up.
In addition to The Hill event, the Senate held another hearing on PBMs. This one, by the powerful Senate Finance Committee, was titled, "Pharmacy Benefit Managers and the Prescription Drug Supply Chain: Impact on Patients and Taxpayers." NCPA submitted comments (watch the hearing here).
The House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee had a hearing titled, "Lowering Unaffordable Costs: Examining Transparency and Competition in Health Care," that once again put the PBMs under the microscope (watch the hearing here).
That brings me back to one of the last questions I was asked on The Hill panel:
What do you want to see from this Congress?
We need to see action from Congress. Some have said this is the year of the PBMs and there is a Senate hearing going on right now and a House hearing a couple of days ago. But all of this talk has to be converted into action. For example, in President Biden's State of the Union address he talked about high drug prices, but he didn't mention PBMs or health insurance companies. I don't know how he can talk about reining in high drug prices and not mention reforms to PBMs and insurance companies. We need Congress to lower drug costs to patients, protect taxpayers, stimulate competition, and protect small business owners.
There are roughly 20,000 mom and pop pharmacies across the country. As the term suggests, they are family businesses. Often, they're run by multiple generations of the same family. Unlike the reptilian insurance companies and PBM arm-twisters, mom and pop pharmacies aren't run for the benefit of fund managers and jet-setting executives. They're run only for the benefit of their communities. That's why they matter. It's what makes them indispensable. Every day should be Mom and Pop Business Owner's Day.
B. Douglas Hoey, Pharmacist, MBA
P.S. NCPA's Annual Congressional Pharmacy Fly-In is April 26-27. Come to D.C. and ask your members of Congress to support "mom and pop shops!"