Q&A: MPA CEO discusses legislative goals for 2021
Larry Wagenknecht is the CEO of the Michigan Pharmacists Association. He was a licensed pharmacist for much of his career and has worked for the MPA for over 30 years. Wagenknecht explained the mission and goals of the MPA to State of Reform, while laying out the association’s legislative goals for the upcoming session.
Mansur Shaheen: What is the MPA, who do you represent and what are the goals of your association?
Larry Wagenknecht: The Michigan Pharmacists Association is a nonprofit group that represents the pharmacists and pharmacy technicians in the state of Michigan. We do not represent pharmacies, like Kroger, Meijer, Walgreens or CVS, though some of their pharmacists belong to our association.
When a person joins the organization, they are looking for two primary things. One is continued education. In most states, including Michigan, you need a certain number of continuing education hours to deal with toxic medications. And so, MPA is a provider of pharmacy education.
The other strong part of the association is information relative to governmental affairs. We lobby the state legislature and Congress and also work closely with the Michigan Board of Pharmacy and the Michigan Department of Licensing Regulatory Affairs. We provide input on pharmacy and pharmaceutical technician issues that arise through regulation.
Get the latest state-specific policy intelligence for the health care sector delivered to your inbox.
MS: Does the work you do still provide some benefits to pharmacy owners across the state?
LW: I would say it definitely does provide benefit to the pharmacies. Whether it’s Larry’s Corner Pharmacy or Walmart or Walgreens, the advocacy and the work that we do definitely benefits them.
MS: What would you say is the biggest legislative accomplishment for the MPA in recent years?
LW: Included in the budget recently presented by the governor was payment reform for community pharmacies. Reimbursement is now calculated using an national average for our acquisition cost methodology, while before it was using an average wholesale price methodology. This will help the local pharmacies, but it excludes the larger chains.
MS: What would that change mean for smaller pharmacies in Michigan?
LW: It has the potential to calculate reimbursement for pharmacies more clearly than what has been happening before. What changes is that for Medicaid managed care, the pharmacies are going to be reimbursed at a more fair approach than what currently is being done by the pharmacy benefit managers on those Medicaid managed care plans.
MS: What does the MPA want to see from the Michigan Legislature in 2021 to help pharmacists around the state?
LW: We have a few priorities. Implementing pharmacy benefit manager transparency regulations is one. We had a bill that went through, was passed by committee, then got snagged up in lame duck session and did not make it out.
A pharmacy benefit manager is the middleman in the whole healthcare delivery system, and in Michigan they’re unregulated. They have tremendous power. They determine pharmacy reimbursement and what drugs are covered. The whole process is put together by the pharmacy benefit manager. They are regulated in about 30 to 50 states but not in Michigan. So establishing some regulations in the state is a priority for us.
The second one is reimbursement for providing health care services for pharmacists. Pharmacists do a lot of things outside of their standard duties but are not compensated for them. Nurses, physician assistants and others are compensated for similar work, and we want pharmacists to be compensated as well.