House Bill Recognizes Pharmacists As Providers In Underserved Areas

Pharmacists are pleased Reps. Brett Guthrie (R-KY), G.K. Butterfield (D-NC), Todd Young (R-IN) and Ron Kind (D-WI) reintroduced a bill Wednesday (Jan. 28) to recognize pharmacists as providers under Part B that can be reimbursed for certain services in medically underserved areas.

The bill would allow pharmacists in designated medically underserved areas to be paid under Part B for some services like immunizations, diabetes screenings and self-management screenings, cardiovascular screenings, behavioral therapy, cholesterol tests, and other preventive screenings consistent with state scope of practice laws. The National Association of Chain Drug Stores notes that pharmacists are already providing these services to other patients. Identical bipartisan legislation introduced in the House last session had 123 cosponsors.

“Allowing these qualified medical professionals to operate in underserved areas and receive payment for their services is a practical way to address the basic health care needs of vulnerable communities and the shortage in the delivery of care in those areas,” Butterfield said in a statement.

The American Pharmacists Association, National Community Pharmacists Association and NACDS support the bill. All are part of the Patient Access to Pharmacists’ Care Coalition, a group of more than 20 organizations that focus on pharmacists’ provider status and Medicare reimbursement. The coalition also supports the bill.

“NCPA and its pharmacy allies have for years advocated broadening the array of services these clinically-trained medication experts can provide to patients,” NCPA CEO Douglass Hoey notes in a statement. “Momentum continues to grow with the introduction of H.R. 592,” he adds.

Provider status for pharmacists has long been a goal for pharmacists groups. Carol Kelly, senior vice president for government affairs and public policy at NACDS, said a continued focus on Medicare provider status legislation is a priority for the pharmacists in 2015. NACDS last summer used a Senate Finance Committee push to improve chronic care as a way to promote pharmacist provider status. Kelly said the group is also working on a state level to gain provider recognition for pharmacists. NCPA and the Academy of Managed Care Pharmacy have also said provider status for pharmacists remains on their 2015 agendas.

NACDS also notes in a statement that an internet poll of likely votes last summer found 79 percent of those who responded favored the legislation, and support cut across party lines.

“The recognition by congressional leaders of pharmacists’ increasingly important role in the delivery of healthcare services is growing, and important progress is being made for the ultimate benefit of patients,” NACDS President and CEO Steven Anderson says in a statement. “We look forward to working with lawmakers as they pursue the enactment of this legislation.” – Michelle M. Stein (mstein@iwpnews.com)

See the original article on the Inside Health Policy website.