U.S. Senate Joins House in Sponsoring Legislation Expanding Medicare Patients' Access to Pharmacist Services
The American Pharmacists Association (APhA) and the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) today hailed the introduction of bipartisan legislation in the U.S. Senate that would give tens of millions of Medicare patients in medically underserved communities access to critically needed primary health care services delivered by pharmacists.
The Pharmacy and Medically Underserved Area Enhancement Act was introduced today by Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-IA), Sen. Robert P. Casey, Jr. (D-PA) and Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH). The bill would enable pharmacists to deliver Medicare Part B services that are already authorized by their respective state laws. These services may include:
- Medication management
- Management of chronic conditions, such as diabetes and hypertension, and related medications
- Cholesterol testing
- Point of care testing (e.g., COVID-19, influenza, strep)
- Immunization screening and administration not currently covered by Medicare Part B and D
- Tobacco cessation services
- Transition of care services
The legislation does not expand scope of practice, but brings Medicare rules in alignment with existing authorities already granted to pharmacists by many states and health care organizations through credentialing and privileging programs.
Similar legislation, H.R. 2759, was introduced in the U.S. House last week by Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D-NC) and Rep. David McKinley (R-WV).
Pharmacists have advanced education and training to deliver these patient care services, but unlike many states in the nation, Medicare does not recognize and reimburse them for such services. Pharmacists earn a Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) degree that includes six years to eight years of higher education to complete. Many pharmacists also complete one to two years of post-graduate residency training and become certified in a specialty by the Board of Pharmacy Specialties.
A strong body of evidence has shown that including pharmacists on interprofessional patient care teams with physicians, nurses, and other health care providers produces better health outcomes and cost savings. Pharmacists are one of the most accessible health care providers in the nation, with nearly 90% of Americans living within five miles of one of the nation’s 88,000 pharmacies.
“A lot of people in rural Iowa have easier access to a pharmacist than a doctor,” said Sen. Grassley. “Where that pharmacist is licensed to provide a service, Medicare ought to pay the pharmacist for it. That’s what this bill does. It’s good for pharmacists because they get paid for providing services to rural seniors. And it’s good for rural seniors because they keep access to their local pharmacist and don’t have to go to the doctor for straightforward medication management.”
“The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has further illustrated how difficult it is for some patients living in medically underserved communities to access care and achieve optimal medication therapy outcomes,” said ASHP CEO Paul W. Abramowitz, PharmD, ScD (Hon.), FASHP. “This legislation recognizes that pharmacists can play an integral role in addressing these longstanding disparities and helps ensure that our most vulnerable patients can access the care they need.”
Scott J. Knoer, MS, PharmD, FASHP, executive vice president and CEO of the American Pharmacists Association, said, “Like the House’s action last week, the Senate’s bipartisan action today generates even more momentum to recognizing that pharmacists are already critical members of the health care team, and should be appropriately compensated for their work. It’s time for Medicare to get with the program and recognize what many states have already learned – pharmacists provide great care.”
About the American Pharmacists Association
The American Pharmacists Association is the largest association of pharmacists in the United States advancing the entire pharmacy profession. Our expert staff, and strong volunteer leadership, including many experienced pharmacists, allow us to deliver vital leadership to help pharmacists, pharmaceutical scientists, student pharmacists and pharmacy technicians find success and satisfaction in their work, while advocating for changes that benefit them, their patients and their communities. For more information, please visit www.pharmacist.com.
ASHP is the collective voice of pharmacists who serve as patient care providers in hospitals, health systems, ambulatory clinics, and other healthcare settings spanning the full spectrum of medication use. The organization’s nearly 58,000 members include pharmacists, student pharmacists, and pharmacy technicians. For 79 years, ASHP has been at the forefront of efforts to improve medication use and enhance patient safety. For more information about the wide array of ASHP activities and the many ways in which pharmacists advance healthcare, visit ASHP’s website, ashp.org, or its consumer website, SafeMedication.com.