Strength in unity is pharmacies' motto, and hope

James M. Berklan
James M. Berklan

Growing up, we had a saying when we wanted to cross a busy street but couldn't catch a break from drivers. “C'mon,” one of us would gamely yell, while pulling the others onto the roadway, “there's safety in numbers!” OK, so I still do it on occasion, and sometimes the shout is, “There's strength in numbers!”

Luckily, we have always crept out when there was a big gap between cars, and we typically have always wound up sprinting to safety on the other side before any danger could befall us.

I'm sure it's not an original saying. Probably just a naïve children's adoption of an exhortation meant for “older people” things such as civil protests or other noble causes.

But it has had its desired effect and taught us as children, whether deservedly or not, that if we just stuck together, we could change minds and get where we wanted to go.

It must be a similar sentiment to what a certain group of independent long-term care pharmacies has been thinking lately. Unless your name starts with Omni or PharMer and you're an LTC pharmacy provider, you aren't in any position to kick sand on anyone's blanket by yourself.

Until now, perhaps. While the goal isn't to bully anyone, the hope is that the newly formed Senior Care Pharmacy Coalition will be able to stand up for itself in the rough and tumble world of public policy and lawmaking. SCPC announced itself to the world last week and with 30 member companies, which serve about 325,000 residents across 40 states, it is already turning heads.

Its hope is to stand up for the smaller independent LTC pharmacist, and better position all LTC institutional pharmacies against retail pharmacies — and against meddlesome pharmacy benefits managers (PBMs). The latter, as SCPC members see it, are basically just middlemen grabbing unfair amounts of government dollars at the expense of professional pharmacists, and resultingly, patients.

SCPC includes the likes of Guardian Pharmacy Services, Remedi SeniorCare, NeighborCare and others. Nos. 1 and 2 in LTC pharmacy, Omnicare and PharMerica hold about 50% of the market. But none of the other approximate 1,000 LTC pharmacies has as much as 2%, according to SCPC President and CEO Alan Rosenbloom.

That's where the unity theme comes into play. A lone slim finger can be vulnerable. A fistful of fingers? That's a different story.

Rosenbloom would appear to be an excellent choice to lead the group. A seasoned lawyer, he had two turns (totaling 15 months) as interim CEO of what is now LeadingAge. He's also a former president and CEO of the Pennsylvania Health Care Association. He may be best known, however, as the last top exec of the Alliance for Quality Nursing Home Care.

Rosenbloom bloodied his knuckles for AQNHC for about 10 years, until the group merged with its original parent, the American Health Care Association, in 2013.

If the past is any indication, we can expect to see a lot of Rosenbloom and whatever he's advocating. Achieving broad exposure mixed with a healthy dose of closed-door persuasion is a hallmark.

Daily Dispensing Fees so loved by pharmacy benefits managers? They're target No. 1. Maximum Allowable Cost (MAC) pricing? Also on the hit list.

Whether Rosenbloom and SCPC will be successful, we'll have to wait and see. But their odds have to be better now that they've pulled together.

James M. Berklan is McKnight's Editor. Follow him @JimBerklan.

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Daily Editors' Notes

McKnight's Daily Editors' Notes features commentary on the latest in long-term care news and issues. Entries are written by Editorial Director John O'Connor, Editor James M. Berklan, Senior Editor Elizabeth Newman and Staff Writer Emily Mongan.

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