The American Pharmacists Association and the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists applauded the introduction of legislation that would give tens of millions of Medicare patients in medically underserved communities access to critically needed patient care services delivered by pharmacists.
The Pharmacy and Medically Underserved Areas Enhancement Act was introduced by Sens. Charles Grassley, (R-Iowa), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) and Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.). The bill would enable pharmacists to deliver Medicare Part B services that already are authorized by their respective state laws. These services may include:
- Medication management;
- Management of chronic conditions, such as diabetes and hypertension, and related medications;
- Cholesterol testing;
- Point-of-care testing (e.g., COVID-19, influenza, strep);
- Immunization screening and administration not currently covered by Medicare Parts B and D;
- Tobacco cessation services; and
- Transition of care services
“Patients living in medically underserved communities often struggle to access the care they need, and pharmacists have proven to be an essential source of care for these patients,” said Ilisa BG Bernstein, interim executive vice president and CEO of APhA, and Paul Abramowitz, CEO of ASHP. “This important legislation helps ensure seniors living in rural and other underserved communities have improved access to the care they need from a pharmacist they trust. As pharmacists, we are grateful to Senators Grassley, Brown, Casey, Hyde-Smith, and Luján for their leadership in addressing gaps in access to pharmacist care.”
State governments are increasingly calling on pharmacists to provide patients with access to essential healthcare services—from point-of-care testing to patient counseling and administration of certain drugs. The legislation brings Medicare rules in alignment with existing authorities already granted to pharmacists by many states and healthcare organizations. Forty-three states have Medicaid programs that recognize pharmacists, and all states have expanded pharmacists' ability to provide care.
Pharmacists have advanced education and training to deliver these services and are one of the most accessible healthcare providers in the nation, the organizations said. Pharmacists earn a Doctor of Pharmacy degree that includes six to eight years of higher education. Many pharmacists also complete one to two years of post-graduate residency training and become certified in a specialty by the Board of Pharmacy Specialties. Numerous studies show that pharmacists improve patient outcomes, expand access to care and contribute to cost savings, the organizations noted.