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Pharmacy on Capitol Hill: A Student's Perspective

Pharmacy on Capitol Hill: A Student's Perspective

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Published by Joey Mattingly
A story about my experience advocating for the profession of pharmacy.
A story about my experience advocating for the profession of pharmacy.

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Published by: Joey Mattingly on Feb 16, 2009
Copyright:Traditional Copyright: All rights reserved


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Pharmacy on Capitol Hill: A Student’s Perspective.
 Joey Mattingly
 Thanks to help from the Kentucky Pharmacists Association and the AmericanPharmacy Services Corporation I was able to attend the National CommunityPharmacists Association (NCPA) 39
Annual Conference on National Legislation andGovernment Affairs in Washington DC from May 14-16. Hundreds of pharmacistsfrom around the country traveled to our nation’s capital to meet with Congressmenand Senators in an effort to ensure that the voice of the community pharmacist washeard. The two days were filled with keynote speakers, Political Action Committeebreakfasts, lobbying in the interests of community pharmacy, and even politicalcomedians to help those attending lighten up after discussing very serious issues allday. The following story tells the tale of the many adventures of a studentpharmacist trying to be noticed by representatives among the hustle and bustle of Washington.Beginning early Monday morning, I gathered with my Kentucky colleagues forthe NCPA opening session located at the Hyatt Regency just a few blocks from theCapitol steps. NCPA helped prepare us for our upcoming Hill visit by providingeveryone with specific information on issues that will directly affect communitypharmacy. The main issues discussed were HB 1474 (a bill enforcing promptpayment by Medicare Part D carriers) and HB971 (a bill to allow independentpharmacies to negotiate collectively with Pharmacy Benefits Managers). My1
objective was to get our Congressmen to co-sponsor these bills and to get ourSenators to sponsor similar legislation on the Senate side. The first day includedmany exciting guest speakers including Political Analyst Mark Shields, Sen. TomCoburn (R, Oklahoma), and the comedic group “Capitol Steps”. Tuesday was the day with all of the action. Early in the morning, NCPAbrought in more guest speakers including Rep. Marion Barry (D, Arkansas) who isthe only pharmacist in Congress, and Chairman of the powerful Ways and MeansCommittee Rep. Charles Rangel (D, New York). One of the coolest moments for mehappened while waiting in the hotel lobby. As I gathered with my group I noticed asmall crowd surrounded by several men in black suits moving rather quickly towardsthe door. As they got closer I realized it was none other than Presidential candidateSen. Hilary Clinton. As the Secret Service agents rushed Sen. Clinton past I wantedto take a picture, but I thought maybe it wasn’t wise to reach into my pocket and jerk out a metal object.After all of the commotion surrounding Sen. Clinton and Rep. Charles Rangel,we gathered to head over to the Capitol for the big news conference scheduled byNCPA to announce to the nation the purpose of our trip and to hear the support of the main sponsors of the pro-pharmacy legislation. This was my first time attendinga news conference of this magnitude and I loved standing behind the podium withother pharmacists and student pharmacists while 10 different Congressmen andwomen further expressed their support of our profession. To make things evenmore exciting Rep. Geoff Davis (R, Kentucky) stood as one of the major speakers atthe press conference, which made me proud to hear my fellow Kentuckian showsuch great support for our cause.Following the conference, meetings with all six Kentucky Congressmen werescheduled throughout the entire afternoon. My first meeting was with Rep. BenChandler (D, 6
District). We had a brief talk with Mr. Chandler who was on his wayto vote, followed by a very detailed meeting with one of his assistants. Chandler’sassistant was very knowledgeable about the issues and remembered me from ameeting I had with her back in April. The assistant put a smile on my face when shereported that Mr. Chandler would be co-sponsoring our bills and supporting thecommunity pharmacist. The next meeting was at the office of Rep. Ron Lewis (R, 2
District). I reallylooked forward to the meeting, because as a native of Bardstown I am one of Mr.Lewis’ constituents. Unfortunately, Mr. Lewis was not able to meet with us but hislegislative assistant invited us in to discuss our issues. The meeting started out likeany other but then quickly took a turn for the worse when it was apparent that Mr.Lewis would not be supporting our legislation. It was disheartening to me as astudent pharmacist to get the impression that my Congressman did not really careabout the fair treatment of community pharmacists. His assistant gave me no realreason why Rep. Lewis would not support more negotiating rights or speedierpayments from Medicare Part D that would help hundreds of Kentucky pharmaciesstay in business and continue to provide patient care to thousands of Kentuckians.His assistant simply listened to our case and then thanked us for stopping by. I leftthat office with a sense of real frustration and realized that this must be the part of politics that keeps many people from getting involved, but I knew my job was notover because there were still other Kentucky Congressmen to meet.I followed the Kentucky group up to the office of Rep. Geoff Davis (R, 4
District) for a meeting with one of his top assistants. This meeting was expected togo a little smoother, knowing that Rep. Davis was one of the main supporters of the2

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