September 13, 2013
By Steven C. Anderson, IOM, CAE
NACDS President and CEO
Pharmacies’ efforts to help patients understand aspects of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) are demonstrating yet again the value of pharmacies as the face of neighborhood healthcare.
This week, Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius said: “Pharmacies across America are stepping up to help you understand and get ready for the Health Insurance Marketplace. And I want to say ‘thank you!’ Families throughout our country look to their pharmacy as a place they can go for honest, straightforward advice they can trust.”
Sound familiar? If it does, there are many good reasons why.
Back in 2006, just weeks after the launch of the Medicare Part D prescription drug benefit rollout, then-Secretary of Health and Human Services Michael Leavitt said: “The efforts of pharmacists over the last month have been nothing short of heroic. I’ve visited with and heard from pharmacists all over the country … they have been selfless, compassionate and committed to service.”
In the implementation of both the ACA (enacted with a Democratic president in the White House) and Medicare Part D (enacted with a Republican president in the White House), pharmacies did what they have done for generations—served as a trusted resource for the patients they serve. This doesn’t have to do with the laws themselves, and with partisan opinions of the laws—but rather with helping to address any questions or confusion that patients may have. In fact, NACDS did not take a position on the ACA in its entirety, but rather focused advocacy on the pharmacy-specific provisions.
In addition to the examples of the ACA and Medicare Part D, pharmacies have received similar thanks from other cabinet-level officials, health and safety authorities, governors and more for their efforts to increase vaccination rates during flu outbreaks, to assist in recovery efforts following natural disasters, and many other situations.
But beyond all of this, pharmacies also earn trust every day. In an NACDS opinion survey, more than nine out of ten respondents said they had a great deal or some confidence in their local pharmacist as a source of health advice in general—including 43 percent who said they had a “great deal” of confidence in their pharmacist. In addition, those who identified themselves as Republicans and Democrats responded very similarly regarding their trust in pharmacists. Partisanship takes a back seat when one needs healthcare information. Pharmacies also consistently rank in the top three of the annual Gallup survey of integrity across professions.
This year, the NACDS Board of Directors established the implementation of the ACA as one of the top priorities for the Association. This involves ensuring NACDS members are constantly updated on developments related to the ACA’s implementation, so they can take appropriate actions. NACDS members themselves are making decisions or have made decisions on various actions that they will take to help inform patients of practical implications of the new law—including those related to health insurance exchanges. These actions may range from distribution of information at pharmacies to more formal roles in patient education.
When it comes right down to it, patients will have questions about healthcare and they will expect and hope that their pharmacies will have at least some of the answers. Living up to that trust is just part of what pharmacies are.