The National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS) shared a coalition release from the National Forum for Heart Disease & Stroke Prevention and 20 other groups asking Congress to take the necessary action required to allow pharmacies to accelerate patients’ access to coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) testing and prepare for the administration of a COVID-19 vaccine upon its availability.

Although pharmacists are authorized to order and administer COVID-19 tests, they are still not able to be reliably paid for their services. If Congress were to address and ameliorate this issue, more Americans would have access to testing across the country, according to the coalition.

Specifically, the statement explains that this problem could be fixed if pharmacists were designated as providers under Medicare. Additionally, this would eliminate existing concerns regarding the effective and consistent deployment of a COVID-19 vaccine upon its release.

“Over 90% of Americans live within 5 miles of a community pharmacy, making pharmacists the most widely accessible health care providers. Evidence suggests pharmacists have more opportunities to interact with patients in the community than other providers, however, if action is not taken, the country may not be able to leverage these critical access points to testing and immunizations,” the coalition wrote in the statement to Congress.
 
The groups that signed the letter represent more than 200 million Americans who have conditions that leave them at greater risk during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The list includes the following groups:
  • Alliance for Aging Research
  • American Association of Heart Failure Nurses
  • American Kidney Fund
  • Association of Black Cardiologists
  • Association of State and Territorial Health Officials
  • BallengeRx Consulting
  • Global Liver Institute
  • HealthHIV
  • International Cancer Advocacy Network
  • Lupus and Allied Diseases Association
  • Mended Hearts
  • Mended Little Hearts
  • Men’s Health Network
  • National Alliance on Mental Illness
  • National Consumers League
  • National Forum for Heart Disease & Stroke Prevention
  • National Lipid Association
  • National Rural Health Association
  • Partnership to Improve Patient Care
  • Preventive Cardiovascular Nurses Association
  • RetireSafe
  • The Society for Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine
  • Sudden Cardiac Arrest Association
  • WomenHeart

In the statement, the coalition explains it is necessary that Congress recognizes the potential of pharmacists once given provider status under Medicare Part B to provide COVID-19 and influenza testing and vaccinations.

“As the number of COVID-19 cases spike in certain communities across the country and the flu season approaches, the opportunity cannot be missed to ramp up patient access to testing and immunizations,” the Coalition wrote in the statement.

REFERENCE
Patients, Consumers, the Underserved, Healthcare Providers and Public Health Call on Congress to Fix a Missing Link So Pharmacies Can Ramp Up COVID Testing and Prepare for Vaccinations [news release]. Arlington, VA: National Association of Chain Drug Stores; August 6, 2020. nacds.org/news/patients-consumers-the-underserved-healthcare-providers-and-public-health-call-on-congress-to-fix-a-missing-link-so-pharmacies-can-ramp-up-covid-testing-and-prepare-for-vaccinations/. Accessed August 7, 2020.