Pharmacists Gain Ground on Provider Status in North Dakota

Pharmacists in North Dakota came closer to attaining provider status when state Gov. Jack Dalrymple recently signed 4 laws recognizing pharmacists as providers.

Pharmacists in North Dakota came closer to attaining provider status when state Gov. Jack Dalrymple recently signed 4 laws recognizing pharmacists as providers.

North Dakota Pharmacists Association (NDPhA) executive vice president Michael Schwab told Pharmacy Times he was pleasantly surprised at how receptive and supportive the legislators were, since NDPhA fought hard to include provider status language in the bills.

“Having these bills pass helps promote pharmacists being an active member of health care teams and opens additional doors allowing pharmacists to expand their scope of practice,” Schwab told Pharmacy Times in an exclusive interview.

North Dakota’s collaborative practice act has recognized pharmacists as health care providers, but one of the recent bills, S. 2173, allows for an expansion of pharmacists’ roles. The law now permits pharmacists to enter into collaborative practice agreements with physicians—including pharmacists practicing outside of institutional settings, which is new. The bill also allows pharmacists to initiate and modify drug therapy.

Another bill Gov. Dalrymple signed was S. 2320, which created a medication therapy management (MTM) program for Medicaid-eligible patients in the medical and hospital benefits coverage group. The bill specifically names pharmacists as providers who may provide MTM services in person or via telephone and are entitled to reimbursement. This act will go into effect January, 1, 2016.

In addition, S. 2104 deems pharmacists as health care professionals, alongside physicians, physician assistants, and advanced practice registered nurses, while H.R. 1102, which deals with work-related injuries, also includes pharmacists as health care providers in its language.

A new subsection of S. 2104 also grants pharmacists’ limited prescriptive authority to distribute naloxone rescue kits to treat an opioid overdose.

Schwab noted NDPhA was especially influential in drafting S. 2104. In June 2013, NDPhA helped create the Reducing Pharmaceutical Narcotics Task Force, of which Schwab is the co-chair. The objective of the task force was to create awareness about prescription drug abuse, with a focus on education, monitoring, enforcement, and disposal.

The attorney general’s office, provider regulatory boards, and law enforcement were just a few of the 25 entities involved in the project. According to Schwab, this task force played a big role in drafting S. 2104.

Prior to the bills’ passage, NDPhA members met with various stakeholders to share the pharmacist’s point of view and air out any differences.

“If we agreed to disagree, they all knew where we stood and what we were trying to accomplish,” Schwab told Pharmacy Times. “This helped us move through the legislative process because we knew were all the interested parties stood regarding our issues. This not only helped us strategize, but helped prevent confrontation during hearings.”

Schwab praised NDPhA members who took the time out of their schedules to advocate for their profession and educate their local legislators. They were active in attending hearings, calling their legislators, and sending emails.

“Being active in one’s profession cannot be stressed enough,” Schwab said. “We continue to push, ‘be active, get involved, make your voice heard.’ Decisions are made by those who show up and actively participate. As the saying goes, there are costs and risks associated with action, but they are far less than the costs and risks associated with comfortable inaction.”

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