Arlington, Va. – Bipartisan legislation introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives today would formally designate pharmacists as healthcare providers under Medicare Part B. Supported by the National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS), the bill would amend The Social Security Act of 1935 to enable pharmacists to provide to Medicare patients in underserved communities services that pharmacists already are providing for other patients under state law.
“The recognition by congressional leaders of pharmacists’ increasingly important role in the delivery of healthcare services is growing, and important progress is being made for the ultimate benefit of patients. We look forward to working with lawmakers as they pursue the enactment of this legislation,” said Anderson.
The Pharmacy and Medically Underserved Areas Enhancement Act (H.R. 592) – introduced by Reps. Brett Guthrie (R-KY), G.K. Butterfield (D-NC), Todd Young (R-IN) and Ron Kind (D-WI) – would elevate pharmacists’ ability to improve patient health. Specifically, Medicare patients would gain enhanced access to pharmacists’ expertise and pharmacy services, including immunizations, diabetes screenings and self-management education, cardiovascular screenings and behavioral therapy, in states in which pharmacists are allowed to provide these services.
“We applaud the leadership of Reps. Guthrie, Butterfield, Young and Kind in introducing this bipartisan, commonsense legislation,” said NACDS President and CEO Steven C. Anderson, IOM, CAE. “The provider status designation will amplify pharmacists’ ability to do what they do best – serve patients and help them on the road to better health.”
The legislation focuses on medically underserved communities, as defined by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Categories of underserved communities include elderly and rural populations, residents of public housing, areas with a shortage of primary care providers and with high poverty rates, and persons with HIV/AIDS, among others.
“As one of the most trusted healthcare professionals, and arguably the most accessible healthcare professionals, pharmacists are uniquely positioned to provide services to patients, particularly among those in underserved communities where healthcare may not be readily available,” said Anderson.
Pharmacists are highly educated and trained healthcare professionals who now must earn a doctor of pharmacy degree (Pharm.D.) to graduate – which takes a minimum of six years to complete and reflects the evolution of pharmacy practice to a more patient-centered focus.
Pharmacists remain committed to the vital function of providing medications safely, and helping patients understand how to take them correctly. Beyond this commitment, examples of pharmacist-provided services that would be available to Medicare patients – on a state-by-state basis according to their unique laws – include vaccination screening and delivery, chronic disease management, and preventive screenings such as testing of glucose, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels.
Many patients in the Medicare Part B program also rely on their pharmacists to provide durable medical equipment and other supplies to help them manage chronic diseases and conditions.
“Pharmacists are helping to shape the healthcare delivery system of tomorrow – in partnership with doctors, nurses and others. This collaboration with other healthcare team members can lead to better health outcomes for the ultimate good of the patient,” said Anderson.
Identical legislation introduced in the House last year, in the 113th Congress, garnered strong bipartisan support with 123 cosponsors, and also was supported by NACDS.
Public support for the legislation also is proving strong across political party leanings. A July Internet survey of likely voters who are informed and engaged when it comes to current events found that 79 percent of respondents favor the legislation — including 36 percent who strongly favor it. The survey, conducted by Public Opinion Strategies and commissioned by NACDS, found that 85 percent of Democrats and 76 percent of Republicans support it.
As a member of the Patient Access to Pharmacists’ Care Coalition (PAPCC), which seeks to ensure all licensed pharmacists are able to care for Medicare patients to the full extent of state scope of practice laws, NACDS joined other pharmacy organizations and stakeholders in releasing a statement of support for the House bill also. To view the statement and for more information on the issue, please visit: PharmacistsCare.org.