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3/6/2001
Press Release

Alliance Sets Sights on Securing Pharmacist Provider Status for Pharmacists

Two of the nation’s premier pharmacy organizations have joined forces to gain "health care provider" status for pharmacists under the Medicare program. The Pharmacist Provider Coalition, comprised of the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) and the American College of Clinical Pharmacy (ACCP), is working to educate members of Congress and the public about the role pharmacists play in the safe and effective use of medications.

"This is a critical patient safety issue," said Henri R. Manasse, Jr., Ph.D., Sc.D., ASHP executive vice president and CEO. "Under the current Medicare system, pharmacists are only paid for providing patient care services that are ‘incident to’ that of a physician’s service. This means that pharmacists working in outpatient settings can only bill for a small number of services--limiting patient access to those services—and that care for high-risk patients is not covered."

The perils of adverse effects from taking multiple medications affect all age groups. According to a recent ASHP survey, just over half of all Americans take at least two medications each day and nearly one-third take four or more medications each day. For the Medicare population, medication use is even higher—nearly half of Americans aged 65 and older take at least four medications each day.

"By changing the compensation structure allowed under Medicare, we can ensure that patients have access to the medication expertise of pharmacists," said Robert M. Elenbaas, Pharm.D., FCCP, executive director of ACCP, adding that studies have shown that when a pharmacist is directly involved in patient care, patients have fewer adverse drug reactions, experience improved outcomes, and health care costs are reduced.

Despite overwhelming evidence of the positive impact pharmacists can have on patient health, pharmacists are not recognized as health care providers under the Social Security Act and, therefore, cannot be paid by Medicare for therapy management and patient consultation services. The Social Security Act does recognize other health care professionals such as dietitians, nurse practitioners, physicians' assistants, nurse midwives, and clinical social workers.

"It is vital to the health of our nation that payment for pharmacists’ drug therapy management services are included in any Medicare reform proposals," Manasse said.

ASHP is the 30,000-member national professional association that represents pharmacists who practice in hospitals, health maintenance organizations, long-term care facilities, home care, and other components of health care systems. ASHP, which has a long history of medication-error prevention efforts, believes that the mission of pharmacists is to help people make the best use of medicines.

ACCP is a professional and scientific society that provides leadership, education, advocacy, and resources enabling clinical pharmacists to achieve excellence in practice and research. ACCP’s membership is composed of practitioners, scientists, educators, administrators, students, residents, fellows, and others committed to excellence in clinical pharmacy and patient pharmacotherapy.