"We all want to build a healthcare system that puts the patient at the center, provides them with peace of mind, and treats them like a person, not a number. Nobody knows how to do that better than America's community pharmacists .."
HHS Secretary Alex M. Azar II
April 10, 2019, Washington, D.C.
Thank you, Doug [Hoey] for having me here, and for the work you’ve done as a leader for community pharmacists at a critical time in the world of American healthcare.
It’s impressive to see a crowd this big at any fly-in, but it is particularly meaningful because I know the important role you each play in your communities.
You’re here not just to represent community pharmacy, but here to represent the patients you work with all across our country.
I also want to offer a special thanks to the student pharmacists who are here today. You are still a year or two away from feeling professionally obligated to come to Washington to advocate for pharmacists, so I’m encouraged to see you becoming interested in public policy early on.
I encourage you to consider public service, even for a short while: delivering healthcare policies that work for our country requires broad perspectives from every element of our healthcare system.
I’ve been aware of the important role community pharmacists play in our healthcare system throughout my career. In just the last year, as Secretary, I’ve been able to visit two community pharmacies to hear from pharmacists and their customers.
Further back, during my time in the private sector, I saw just how trusted and valued pharmacists are, often serving as the most frequent point of contact many Americans have with our health system.
When I was serving as Deputy Secretary in the 2000s and we rolled out Medicare Part D, Secretary Leavitt and I were well aware of and quite appreciative of the vital role community pharmacists played in educating seniors about the new benefit. Fifteen years later, we can say Part D has been a success.
But a changing prescription drug market has meant that high prescription drug costs are still a top concern for seniors and Americans of all ages. The experience at the pharmacy counter shapes what many Americans think about the health care system.
All of you know this well, but it is striking just how the unaffordable and unpredictable costs of drugs can be one of the most stressful aspects of healthcare.
I’ve talked to members of Congress who are driven to take prescription drug costs seriously as an issue simply because of massive bills they’ve been hit with at the pharmacy counter. You likely see this kind of sticker shock every day, and you can play a key role in making it as rare as possible for your customers.
So I’m pleased to speak with all of you, and honored to be the first HHS Secretary in recent memory to address a meeting of the NCPA.
But I’m here not just because I personally have already come to understand how valuable a role community pharmacists play in our health system. It’s also because no HHS Secretary has ever worked for a president as determined as President Trump to drive down Americans’ drug costs and improve the experience they have at the pharmacy counter.
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