NACDS calls on CMS to improve COVID-19 test access for Medicare patients

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NACDS calls on CMS to improve COVID-19 test access for Medicare patients

By Sandra Levy - 06/01/2020

In a letter to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the National Association of Chain Drug Stores is recommending changes to a pending rule to further improve Medicare patients’ access to pharmacist-provided COVID-19 tests.

NACDS said its recommendations are in the spirit of the administration’s prior efforts to empower pharmacies and pharmacists to help scale and sustain COVID-19 testing in a manner that supports public health and helps to reopen America.

“As work continues to ramp up testing, we are encountering complexities that have practical effects on reimbursement and thus on patient access,” NACDS stated.

One recommendation addresses a peculiarity related to the term “homebound” in the rule. That term has significant meaning in the system that CMS has set up to reimburse entities that collect specimens for COVID-19 testing. Simply put, unless the term “homebound” is interpreted to include patients who travel to a pharmacy’s drive-thru or parking lot testing site, the term would serve as a barrier to a pharmacy’s reimbursement for COVID-19 tests provided to Medicare patients.

NACDS’ other recommendation would ensure that — consistent with the Families First Coronavirus Response Act — pharmacies would be reimbursed for such tests at the same rate paid to other practitioners, such as physicians.

In submitting the comments, NACDS president and CEO Steve Anderson said, “We know that pharmacies and pharmacists, the most accessible health and wellness destinations, have a significant role to play in helping to scale and sustain COVID-19 testing. The administration has taken action, which is greatly appreciated, to help remove barriers to pharmacist-provided testing for the ultimate benefit of patients and communities. At least 37 states also have taken significant action to remove such barriers."

Anderson continued, “As work continues to ramp up testing, we are encountering complexities that have practical effects on reimbursement and thus on patient access. NACDS continues to work with leaders at all levels of government to remove any such barriers, and to urge adequate testing supplies for pharmacies. We also are already looking ahead to build on the lessons learned from COVID-19 testing to help ensure the removal of barriers for pharmacist-provided COVID-19 treatments and vaccines, once they are available.”