Representing NACDS, Civello asks Obama to maintain emergency Medicaid funding

WASHINGTON Representing the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, Kerr Drug chairman, president and CEO Tony Civello directly appealed to President Barack Obama and VP Joe Biden for an extension of a temporary increase in federal funding for state Medicaid programs.

That increase -- set to expire at the end of the year -- is vital to help “maintain pharmacy’s ability to help patients take their medications appropriately, improving their lives and preventing higher long-term costs,” he asserted.

Civello, past chairman of NACDS and head of one of retail pharmacy’s most innovative drug chains, participated today in a White House event hosted by the president and VP to discuss the economy. Civello participated in the event to represent NACDS, which was invited by the Obama Administration to attend the forum.

Civello used the occasion to generate White House support for a provision of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009: an NACDS-backed temporary increase in the federal medical assistance percentage [FMAP]. NACDS is urging Congress to extend the increase beyond its scheduled termination at the end of 2010.

“It is an honor to represent NACDS at the White House, and we appreciate the invitation from President Obama,” Civello said following the event. “It is important to highlight that the ARRA provided additional federal funding to state Medicaid programs.”

In the midst of the recession, state budgets remain “very tight,” the former NACDS chairman noted, and many state budgets still include Medicaid cuts. “But the additional federal funding,” he pointed out, “has made a difference in preserving healthcare access. This is really important for people’s lives and for controlling long-term costs.”

Civello urged the administration to disregard budget-cutters pushing for further cuts in state Medicaid assistance from the federal government.

“One of the problems we see is that if pharmacy access, for example, is diminished, patients are less likely to take their medications as appropriate. Any short-term savings are outweighed by short- and long-term costs that result from serious health complications requiring more expensive medical treatments,” Civello said. “By one estimate, failure to take medications as prescribed, or lack of medication adherence as we call it, leads to $290 billion in annual healthcare costs, or 13% of total annual healthcare expenditures.

“Pharmacies are the face of neighborhood health care. And the temporary increase in federal funding for state Medicaid programs is essential to patient health and to the viability of this valuable health resource,” he added.