U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., is co-sponsoring a bill to encourage pharmacists to serve older Americans and people with disabilities in communities lacking easy access to doctors or where pharmacists are more convenient to visit for certain services than doctors.
Casey was joined by Sens. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, Mark Kirk, R-Ill., and Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio.
“Across the country and in Pennsylvania pharmacists play a critical role in helping seniors receive access to routine healthcare services like wellness checks,” Senator Casey said in a statement. “This legislation will aid those in rural communities who may not live in close proximity to the doctor but do have regular contact with their pharmacist. I’m hopeful that Congress will move forward on this commonsense legislation in the coming year.”
The Pharmacy and Medically Underserved Areas Enhancement Act encourages pharmacists to offer health care services such as health and wellness screenings, immunizations and diabetes management by authorizing Medicare payments for those services where pharmacists are already licensed under state law to provide them.
Most states already allow pharmacists to provide these services but there currently is no way for pharmacists to receive Medicare reimbursement for providing them.
A similar bill was introduced in the House by Rep. Brett Guthrie, R-Kentucky, G.K. Butterfield, D-N.C., Todd Young, R-Indiana, and Ron Kind, D-Wisc.
The bipartisan legislation was supported by 123 bipartisan cosponsors during the 113th Congress.
“We applaud the leadership of Reps. Guthrie, Butterfield, Young and Kind in introducing this bipartisan, commonsense legislation,” said National Association of Chain Drug Stores President and CEO Steven C. Anderson. “The provider status designation will amplify pharmacists ability to do what they do best serve patients and help them on the road to better health.”
The legislation focuses on medically underserved communities, as defined by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Categories of underserved communities include elderly and rural populations, residents of public housing, areas with a shortage of primary care providers and with high poverty rates, and persons with HIV/AIDS, among others.