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7/22/2003

Pharmacist 'Provider Status' Legislation Introduced into the Senate

Donna Young

Senators Tim Johnson (D-South Dakota) and Thad Cochran (R-Mississippi) on June 16 introduced into the Senate legislation that will permit pharmacists to bill Medicare for high-level drug therapy management services, in accordance with state law.

If passed, the Medication Therapy Management Act of 2003, S. 1270, will enhance the Medicare program by covering pharmacists’ services “for those beneficiaries at risk for potential medication problems due to the presence of multiple or complex chronic diseases,” Johnson stated in the Congressional Record.

“These services, which are coordinated in direct collaboration with physicians and other health care professionals, help patients make the best possible use of their medications,” he added.

The Pharmacist Provider Coalition, a joint effort of the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) and six other national pharmacy organizations, worked closely with Johnson and Cochran on the legislation to provide patients access to pharmacist-provided drug therapy management services under the Medicare program, said Kathleen Cantwell, ASHP’s federal legislative affairs director and government affairs counsel.

“The ‘provider status’ legislation remains a top priority for ASHP,” she said. “Our congressional sponsors are working hard to move us toward achieving this goal.”

Pharmacists play a vital role in patient care, Johnson said.

The pharmacist’s specialized training in medication therapy management has been demonstrated repeatedly to improve the quality of care patients receive and to control health care costs associated with medication complications,” he said.

Johnson noted that nearly 40 states, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and the Indian Health Service “all recognize the value of collaborative medication therapy management services as a way to provide optimal patient care using the specialized education and training of pharmacists.”

The addition of pharmacist services to Medicare represents “real value,” he said.

“This will serve all Medicare beneficiaries by ensuring that each precious dollar, regardless of who is paying the ‘bills for the pills,’ is spent wisely on a safe and effective medication regimen,” Johnson said.