Get Into Politics or Get Out of Pharmacy
Relationships do matter. Certainly, elected officials make up their own minds about where they stand on issues. But the old saying, "All politics is local," has truth to it.
Each year, LIPA sends a delegation of board members, staff and member pharmacists to Washington D.C. to discuss pharmacy issues with members of Louisiana's congressional delegation. For some, it may be the first time they meet their representative while for others it is a continuance of the relationship they had already started.
Despite what seems like the extreme influence of money on politicians, the connection between a politician and their constituent still matters—a lot. After all, the constituents are the voters. They are the people that politician is sworn to represent. They also are the people who elected the politician to office and they have a chance every two, four, or six years to decide if they want to re-elect or replace.
Community pharmacy is not going to outspend its opponents. The largest "pure" PBM—Express Scripts—claims more revenue than the combined revenue of Disney, McDonalds, and American Express! However, it is community pharmacy owners who many politicians know are vital to their communities by helping people get and stay healthy and by creating jobs. According to the Small Business Administration, 49.2% of all of the private sector work force is employed by small businesses and 64% of new, private-sector jobs!
Translating State Success to the Federal Level
While we do an excellent job reaching out to our state’s legislators, we must call for greater action from our congressmen in Washington in addition to keeping them more informed on the issues.
In Louisiana, LIPA has had considerable success working with our legislators and state government to bring attention to the patients’ need for access to prescription drugs from their local pharmacy. This success is the product of our members effectively contacting their state legislators and explaining the issues. Many of you have filled scripts for these individuals for years or have invited them to visit your store when they are back home. Others join us at the Capitol in Baton Rouge to ensure passage of a piece of legislation.
For success on the federal level, we must do the same thing in Washington. It’s apparent that the congressional process has become increasingly bogged down with partisan bickering in recent years. Yet, our congressional delegation has strong leaders elected from throughout the state and they are willing to take a stand on your behalf. Half of our federal delegation is made up of medical doctors and they are certainly familiar with a number of your concerns. We believe that they understand the bureaucracy of federal politics and will have to work to get CMS to take action.
How to Get Involved
Plan ahead now and make an appointment with your elected officials—both your Representative and Senators—while they are at home. Attend town hall meetings and don't be afraid to respectfully ask questions from the audience. Encourage your employees to get involved.
Invite your members of Congress to your store for a pharmacy visit. Show them what goes on behind the counter and explain the economic model of take it or leave it contracts, clawbacks, and ask them to take action. LIPA staff can help you arrange the visit, and provide you with tips for scheduling and hosting a visit.