The COVID-19 pandemic’s impact has been immense in our communities and across the world. The public health crisis has also shined a critical light on the essential role of pharmacy practitioners, and helped to give way to some strong advocacy momentum as we work at the state and federal level to increase recognition of pharmacists as patient care providers.
Expanding Medicare Patients’ Access to Pharmacists
Today, I’m pleased to announce that provider status legislation that ASHP has long supported, the Pharmacy and Medically Underserved Area Enhancement Act, was reintroduced in Congress. The legislation would give millions of Medicare patients in medically underserved communities access to critically needed primary healthcare services delivered by pharmacists, and recognize pharmacists as providers in the Medicare program.
Introduced by Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D-NC) and Rep. David McKinley (R-WV), the bipartisan legislation would enable pharmacists to deliver Medicare Part B services that are already authorized by their respective state laws. I encourage you to help us in supporting this effort by sending an email to your members of Congress urging them to cosponsor this important bill.
Today’s introduction of the provider status legislation comes at a time when the pharmacy profession has demonstrated immense leadership, resolve, and an active engagement in the fight against COVID-19.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, ASHP has been at the forefront of the COVID-19 response and policy, advocacy, and vaccine leadership efforts in collaboration with our state affiliates. At the federal level, for example, we have worked with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to revise scope of pharmacy practice policies during this public health emergency. These efforts have resulted in a dramatic impact on expanding pharmacists’ services.
State Advocacy Wins
As part of our support for state-level advocacy, we have seen tremendous progress with governors giving pharmacists the authority to provide patients with important healthcare services throughout their states. In fact, every single state in the country has now expanded the ability of pharmacists to provide care, such as testing for COVID-19 and influenza and administering vaccinations for COVID-19 and other infectious diseases.
Other states have gone further. Most recently, Utah amended its pharmacy practice act to allow pharmacists to independently prescribe certain drugs and devices and allow the state to establish rules permitting pharmacists to prescribe non-controlled substances within the scope of the pharmacist’s training.
State legislation is also being amended to ensure that patients have their care covered by insurers when they receive care from their pharmacist. Kentucky is one such example of a state that just last month signed a bill into legislation that will require insurers to compensate pharmacists for clinical services within their scope of practice, paving the way for many more patients to be able to access critical services from pharmacy practitioners who are often the most accessible healthcare providers for patients.
Advocating for Change
Unfortunately, the Medicare program has not kept pace with state scope of practice, resulting in Medicare beneficiaries not being able to access pharmacist services. And yet multiple studies have shown that pharmacist-provided clinical services expand access to care, improve chronic disease outcomes, and help decrease the cost of care, with research estimating that every $1 invested in clinical services by pharmacists reduces overall healthcare costs by $4.
ASHP is committed to supporting our members and their patients as we work to advance the recognition of pharmacy professionals. Today’s introduction of legislation on this critical topic is just one step in that process. ASHP is also strongly advocating to make HHS’ COVID-19 regulatory flexibilities permanent after the public health emergency ends, and we continue to work closely with our state affiliates on key state scope of practice initiatives. Additionally, we are significantly investing in expanding access to comprehensive medication management services.
Recognition for pharmacists has been a long journey and one that we are eager to continue to advance. Today is a day to celebrate the progress we have made and the momentum that we are generating. We look forward to continuing our strong advocacy efforts on expanding access to pharmacist care with the goal of improving patient health for all.
As always, thank you for all that you do for your patients and our profession.