Berry Fights To Preserve Access To Care For Seniors

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the House of Representatives voted to pass a bill cosponsored by Congressman Marion Berry that would help seniors continue to receive medical supplies and equipment for their healthcare needs.  The bill, H.R. 3663, extends the deadline for pharmacists to obtain accreditation to sell Medicare Part B Durable Medical Equipment, Prosthetics, Orthotics and Supplies (DMEPOS) from September 30, 2009 to January 1, 2010.

Without passage of H.R. 3663, pharmacies would be forced to comply with burdensome and duplicative accreditation requirements in order to supply their patients with durable medical equipment (DME) under Medicare Part B beginning October 1, 2009.  Durable medical equipment includes products such as diabetic testing supplies, walkers and wheelchairs.  The delay helps pharmacists currently trying to complete the accreditation process continue to provide durable medical equipment to beneficiaries without jeopardizing their status under Medicare.

“This bill will remove burdensome, red-tape that pharmacies would have been forced to comply with and most importantly, it will help them continue to provide these valuable services to seniors,” said Berry.
The bill also allows Congress time to pass permanent legislation conditionally exempting pharmacists from this regulation. Earlier this year, Congressman Berry introduced H.R. 616, which would fix this problem by adding pharmacists to the list of medical professionals exempted from a Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ (CMS) accreditation requirement.   Currently, pharmacists are the only licensed medical professionals that must meet CMS accreditation requirements.

This requirement by CMS has led many pharmacies to close their doors, stop supplying durable medical equipment to beneficiaries, or end their participation in Medicare.   Many pharmacists trying to complete the requirements have fallen victim to significant costs and delays in the accreditation process.

Berry continued, “For many seniors, losing the ability to use a local pharmacy to get the medical supplies and equipment they need could be devastating,” said Berry.  “In many rural areas across Arkansas, pharmacies are often the only providers who are able to offer these supplies to beneficiaries and they are already scarce.  It is senseless to make seniors on fixed incomes drive even farther distances to get the medical equipment they need because of a burdensome rule imposed on community pharmacies by CMS.”