Legislation reintroduced with its 108 original co-sponsors
Reps. Brett Guthrie (R., Ky.), G.K. Butterfield (D., N.C.), Ron Kind (D., Wis.) and Tom Reed (R., N.Y.) on Friday introduced the Pharmacy and Medically Underserved Areas Enhancement Act (H.R. 592) in the House. A companion bill, the legislation was introduced earlier this month in the Senate as S. 109, with its 27 original co-sponsors.
The bill would recognize pharmacists as health providers and allow state-licensed pharmacists in medically underserved communities to provide and be reimbursed for an expanded scope of patient care services under Medicare Part B.
“For many Kentuckians, the nearest pharmacy is much closer to them than the nearest doctor,” Guthrie said in a statement. “Our senior citizens should not have to travel for basic services when their neighborhood pharmacist is already licensed to help them. By allowing Medicare to reimburse pharmacists, seniors will have more immediate access to health care.”
The Pharmacy and Medically Underserved Areas Enhancement Act would enable Medicare beneficiaries to receive basic care such as vaccinations, diabetes management, blood pressure screenings and routine health checks from pharmacists. Lawmakers noted that there’s currently no avenue for Medicare to directly reimburse pharmacists for providing such services, which has hampered access to care by forcing seniors in medically underserved areas to travel long distances to see a doctor.
“In rural areas like many I represent, access to a primary care doctor can be challenging. In these cases, individuals often turn to pharmacists to provide wellness testing, help to manage chronic disease, administer immunizations and help to reduce hospital admissions,” Butterfield explained. “Pharmacists in eastern North Carolina are helping people to live longer, healthier and more fulfilling lives and saving taxpayers money. But providing those services doesn’t come without a cost to the pharmacist. I am proud to join my colleagues on this bipartisan measure that will ensure our pharmacists can continue to provide care to those in need.”
Known as H.R. 592/S. 314 in the 114th Congress, the Pharmacy and Medically Underserved Areas Enhancement Act has garnered substantial support, the National Association of Chain Drug Stores reported. In the last Congress, the bill was co-sponsored by about half the Senate and two-thirds of the House.
“NACDS thanks for their leadership Rep. Brett Guthrie, Rep. G.K. Butterfield, Rep. Tom Reed and Rep. Ron Kind, the lead sponsors of the Pharmacy and Medically Underserved Areas Enhancement Act in the House,” NACDS president and chief executive officer Steve Anderson stated. “NACDS appreciates all of the 108 representatives who have signed onto the legislation as original co-sponsors. The work already is under way to build on the momentum that was started in the last Congress, to accelerate the campaign to enhance the quality, accessibility and affordability of patient care through pharmacist-provided services.”
B. Douglas Hoey, CEO of the National Community Pharmacists Association, noted that the legislation augurs an expanded role for pharmacists, who bring to the table a high level of health care credentials beyond dispensing prescriptions.
“Pharmacists are highly accessible, clinically trained medication experts who can improve health outcomes and reduce overall costs,” according to Hoey. “Thanks to Reps. Guthrie, Butterfield, Reed and Kind, we have legislation in the House that would empower pharmacists to provide even greater care to Medicare beneficiaries.”
Kind pointed out that the Pharmacy and Medically Underserved Areas Enhancement Act also promises more affordable health care. “Almost every Wisconsin community has a pharmacist, and allowing pharmacists to provide patient care services as consistent with their education, training and license will increase access while lowering costs,” he commented.
In Reed’s western New York district, getting affordable health services can be a challenge for rural communities, the congressman noted. “We support this bill because it is a commonsense method to help ensure access to care for many that would otherwise have difficulties finding treatment options. It’s only right that we use the tools that are available to us to expand access and get people the services they need to be well.”
Sponsors of the Senate bill include Chuck Grassley (R., Iowa), Bob Casey (D., Pa.), Susan Collins (R., Maine) and Sherrod Brown (D., Ohio).
“The American Pharmacists Association is pleased that this important legislation, which will increase patient access to pharmacists’ services, has now been reintroduced in both the House and Senate,” stated Thomas Menighan, executive vice president and CEO of the American Pharmacists Association. “APhA has already begun outreach to both new and returning members of Congress and is excited for the opportunity to build upon the momentum achieved over the last several years.”