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8/3/2001
Press Release

Bill Introduced to Assist Medicare Patients Taking Complex Medications

Representatives Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-N.J.) and Lynn Rivers (D-Mich.) introduced legislation yesterday that will significantly enhance patient safety and help contain rising national health care costs by increasing patient access to the professional services of pharmacists.

"Medicare patients have been shortchanged because of limited access to pharmacists’ drug therapy management services," said Representative Pallone. "This bill is a critical step forward in guaranteeing that seniors and the most needy, high-risk patients get the care they need."

The Medicare Pharmacist Services Coverage Act (H.R. 2799) will amend the Social Security Act to include pharmacists on the list of health care professionals classified as "health care providers." The Social Security Act recognizes a number of other health care professionals as "health care providers," including registered dieticians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, certified nurse midwives, and clinical social workers. The bill’s companion, S. 974, was introduced in the Senate in May.

Recognition as "health care providers" will ensure that pharmacists are eligible to bill Medicare for providing high-level patient care services. This will, in turn, help build an effective infrastructure for an outpatient prescription drug benefit, Pallone added.

"Americans today have access to a vast array of powerful medications, but they don’t necessarily receive the comprehensive medication management that a pharmacist can provide," said Henri R. Manasse, Jr., Sc.D., Ph.D. , executive vice president and CEO of the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP). "This issue is fundamentally about patient safety and effective treatment of disease."

Introduction of the legislation in both the Senate and the House is a real victory for Americans and "represents an essential step in the development of a safer, quality-driven health care system for our nation," said Robert M. Elenbaas, Pharm.D., FCCP, executive director of the American College of Clinical Pharmacy (ACCP). "We must acknowledge the crucial role pharmacists can and should play in ensuring elderly patients receive the care they deserve."

The Pharmacists Provider Coalition (PPC), a joint effort of ASHP and ACCP, worked closely with Representative Pallone on the legislation.

The need for pharmacists’ involvement in drug therapy management is particularly important for patients age 65 and older, as they are often taking several medications and may have numerous health conditions. According to a recent survey conducted by ASHP, half of American seniors take five or more medications daily. Other research in respected medical literature such as the Journal of the American Medical Association has shown that when pharmacists are part of patient care teams, patients have fewer adverse drug events and experience improved outcomes, and health care costs are decreased. The Institute of Medicine’s November 1999 report on patient safety also recognized the value of pharmacists to patient care noting, "the pharmacist has become an essential resource and patient safety demands that access to the pharmacist’s expertise must be possible at all times."

To read the full text of the legislation or to learn more about the PPC, go to www.ashp.org/public/proad/compensation.

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.