Time to take Action: Enhancing Care for the Medically Underserved

By Zachary Weber posted 04-20-2017 09:47


The Pharmacy and Medically Underserved Areas Enhancement Act is a bipartisan legislation that would allow pharmacists to provide care in federally defined medically underserved communities (https://bhw.hrsa.gov/shortage-designation/muap). In early 2017, it was reintroduced in both the United States House of Representatives (H.R. 592) and Senate (S. 109). There are several potential advantages that could become available to pharmacists with the passage of this bill. These include, but are not limited to:

  • The ability to provide services authorized under state pharmacy practice acts to Medicare patients
  • Administer immunizations, conduct wellness and prevention screenings, and help ensure medication adherence
  • The opportunity to provide essential healthcare to patients in rural areas, who likely have easier access to pharmacists than physicians
  • The ability to directly bill and seek Medicare reimbursement, and provide these services independently from physicians or other providers

As stated by Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA), “where that pharmacist is licensed to provide a service, Medicare ought to pay the pharmacist for it.” S.109/H.R. 592 would allow this to happen, but many pharmacists are still asking how they can help get this passed.

As a pharmacist, student pharmacist, pharmacy technician, or pharmacy resident, there are many ways you can get involved in advocacy on a day-to-day basis. Here are a few examples:

  • Talk about what you do! Advocating for the profession can be as easy as discussing what you do on a daily basis to help educate the public and others outside of the profession about what the profession of pharmacy is all about.
  • Get to know your state or federal legislators and talk about issues you care about (including Provider Status!). Handwritten notes/letters add a nice personal touch, phone calls are an option, visit with your representatives in their office(s).
  • Invite your state or federal legislators for a site visit at your practice. This is a great way to allow your legislator to see your practice in action! It is also a great time to continue to develop a positive relationship and establish yourself and your team as a resource for that representative related to legislative issues (http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/).
  • Get involved in your state’s Society of Health-System Pharmacists Legal Affairs or Advisory Committee to drive advocacy at a state level

If you have already been involved in the legislative process, here are some “higher level” ways to get involved:

Although student pharmacists may not be able to fully participate in direct patient care, student pharmacists have the opportunity to independently advocate for advancing pharmacy practice.  At the national level, ASHP hosts an annual Student Advocate Training & Legislative Day in Washington D.C. in the springtime.  Student pharmacists can also work through their SSHP chapters to host events and collaborate on advocacy projects. A few examples of advocacy projects include letter writing campaigns, creating videos to share what pharmacists do, or talking with others about what student pharmacists do in their internship role.

The time to get involved in advocacy is now!   

Read more at: https://www.ashp.org/Advocacy-and-Issues/Advocacy/Grassroots-Network/Political-Activity-Toolkit

Contributions by: Zach Weber, PharmD, BCPS, BCACP, CDE, Laura Nice, PharmD Candidate 2018, Jaclyn Boyle, PharmD, MS, MBA, BCPS