WASHINGTON — The effort to formally designate pharmacists as health care providers in certain instances received a major push at the end of January when federal legislation addressing this issue was introduced in both the House and Senate with bipartisan support.
The National Association of Chain Drug Stores called the bills “commonsense legislation” and immediately endorsed the focus of both the House and Senate versions.
The proposed bills would enable pharmacists to provide and receive reimbursement for patient care services administered to Medicare patients in “underserved communities” as long as they are services that pharmacists already are providing for other patients under state law.
Four senators are cosponsoring the Senate version of the bill. They are: Charles Grassley (R., Iowa), Sherrod Brown (D., Ohio), Mark Kirk (R., Ill.) and Bob Casey (D., Pa.).
In the House, representatives Brett Guthrie (R., Ky.), G.K. Butterfield (D., N.C.), Todd Young (R., Ind.) and Ron Kind (D., Wis.) are the cosponsors of the legislation, which is known as “the Pharmacy and Medically Underserved Areas Enhancement Act.” (The bill has the same title in the Senate.)
Similar legislation was introduced in the House last year and eventually picked up 123 cosponsors.
NACDS president and chief executive officer Steve Anderson said the association “applauds the leadership” and commitment the legislators in both the House and Senate are taking on the provider status issue for pharmacists.
“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,” Anderson added.
The legislation focuses on medically “underserved communities,” which the Department of Health and Human Services defines as 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 other areas, according to NACDS.
“In 2015, we are charging into this new Congress with legislation that would designate pharmacists as health care providers in Medicare Part B [and] empowering them to deliver services to Medicare patients in underserved communities, according to pharmacists’ scope of practice laws in each state,” Anderson said.
“This is just one example of the growing recognition of pharmacy’s value, and the ability of highly trusted, highly educated and highly accessible pharmacists to improve and save lives.”
He credited the progress being made on the provider status issue to the industry’s “tremendous work in pharmacies in neighborhoods throughout the nation — one consultation, one vaccination, one medication synchronization and one screening at a time.”