Retail Pharmacy Making a Comeback?

May 15, 2015

Lawmakers included a provision in the defense bill giving TRICARE beneficiaries more choice in their pharmacy options. The House Armed Services Committee's version of the FY16 defense bill contains language giving military beneficiaries the option of using a designated "preferred retail pharmacy" to obtain medications.

The pilot will include maintenance medications, which after last year's policy change, are currently only available at a military treatment facility (MTF) or by the home delivery program. The assumption is that by giving participating pharmacies the ability to buy medications at rates available to the federal government, retailers will pass the savings on to beneficiaries.

DoD will be responsible for identifying the regional area where the pilot will be conducted, as well as determining the participating pharmacy retailers. In order for selected pharmacies to receive federal pricing on medications purchased for beneficiaries, retailers will need to comply with DoD distribution and compliance requirements.

The pilot will be evaluated for government cost-savings, just as the home delivery program has provided. Skeptics are concerned that the distribution and compliance requirements may be costly for the pharmacies, and drive up the costs of prescriptions.

Enhancing health care convenience and access has long been a goal of MOAA.  "We are in favor of giving TRICARE beneficiaries more choices within their health care pharmacy options," said MOAA's Government Relations Deputy Director Capt. Kathy Beasley, USN (Ret.), "and we are hopeful that this pilot will demonstrate that retail pharmacies can be cost effective."

If enacted, the pilot will run from May 1, 2016 to Sept. 30, 2018.