ASHP, APhA Express Support for New Bill Expanding Medicare Patients’ Access to Pharmacists

The legislation does not expand scope of practice, but instead brings Medicare rules in alignment with existing responsibilities already granted to pharmacists through various credentialing and privileging programs.

The American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) and the American Pharmacists Association (APhA) are both expressing support for the Pharmacy and Medically Underserved Area Enhancement Act, which would allow pharmacists to deliver Medicare Part B services to Medicare patients in underserved communities, according to a press release.

The bill, introduced today by Representatives G.K. Butterfield (D-NC) and David McKinley (R-WV), would enable pharmacists to deliver services that are already authorized by individual states’ laws. According to a press release from ASHP, those services could include medication management, management of chronic conditions, cholesterol testing, point of care testing, tobacco cessation services, transition of care services, and immunization screenings and administration not currently covered by Medicare Part B and D.

The legislation does not expand scope of practice, but instead brings Medicare rules in alignment with existing responsibilities already granted to pharmacists through various credentialing and privileging programs. Pharmacists already have the education and training to deliver these services, according to the press release, although Medicare does not recognize and reimburse them for these services.

“In many states across the country, pharmacists are already critical members of the health care team, and are compensated appropriately for that work,” said Scott J. Knoer, MS, PharmD, FASHP, executive vice president and CEO of APhA, in the press release. “It’s time for Medicare to get with the program and recognize what many states have already learned—that pharmacists provide great care.”

The press release from ASHP cited a “strong body of evidence” illustrating that the inclusion of pharmacists on interprofessional patient care teams with physicians, nurses, and other health care providers produces better outcomes and cost savings. The accessibility of pharmacists also enables them to provide superior care, with nearly 90% of Americans living within 5 miles of a pharmacy, according to the press release.

“In rural and underserved areas like those that I represent, access to a primary care doctor can be challenging and pharmacists often step in and serve as accessible access points for care,” Butterfield said in the press release. “Pharmacists can provide wellness testing, help manage chronic disease, and administer immunizations. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted how accessible pharmacists are and how they can be leveraged to improve the health of communities.”

Butterfield added that he has seen firsthand the role that pharmacists are playing in eastern North Carolina to help patients maintain their health.

“I am proud to join my colleagues on this bipartisan measure that will ensure our pharmacists are appropriately reimbursed and can continue to provide care to those in need,” he concluded.

REFERENCE

ASHP, APhA Applaud Introduction of Bill Expanding Medicare Patients’ Access to Pharmacist Services [news release]. ASHP; April 22, 2021. https://www.ashp.org/news/2021/04/22/ashp-apha-applaud-introduction-of-bill-expanding-medicare-patients-access-to-pharmacist-services. Accessed April 22, 2021.