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6/20/2003

Act Now to Preserve Medicare's Residency Program Payments

Cheryl A. Thompson

July 8 is the deadline for telling the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) that its proposal to end pharmacy residency programs' eligibility for "pass-through" payment of reasonable costs should not be incorporated into Medicare's hospital inpatient prospective pricing system (PPS).

The ASHP Web site has information on the CMS proposal and advice on preparing comments for the agency's consideration. CMS accepts comments by regular mail only; no faxes or e-mail.

In brief, the agency wants to classify pharmacy residency programs as continuing education—whose costs are part of the normal hospital operations covered by the PPS rate—because the programs typically last no more than one year and because pharmacists do not have to complete a one-year postgraduate program before they practice pharmacy in a hospital. This proposal by CMS arose from questions it received from other allied health professionals about which programs would be eligible for reimbursement under Medicare on a reasonable-cost basis and which are ineligible. ASHP staff does not believe that CMS consulted with any allied health professional organization before making the proposal.

The Society is working vigorously to preserve federal support for pharmacy residency programs but needs pharmacists, residents, physicians, and hospital administrators to write individual letters to CMS in addition. Letters must be received by CMS in Baltimore, Maryland, by July 8 to be considered by the agency.