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A pharmacist giving a vaccine.

Pharmacy orgs praise House introduction of legislation to protect Americans’ access to pharmacy-based care

HR 7213 would help ensure the continuity of accessible pharmacy-based care post pandemic.

Pharmacy organizations, including the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, the American Pharmacists Association, and the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, are among the members of the Future of Pharmacy Care Coalition, that are praising the House of Representatives for introducing bipartisan legislation (HR 7213) that would help ensure the continuity of accessible pharmacy-based care.

On Thursday, Congressman Ron Kind (D-Wis.), Congressman David B. McKinley (R-W.Va.), Congresswoman Nanette Diaz Barragán (D-Calif.) and Congressman Buddy Carter (R-Ga.) introduced H.R. 7213, the Equitable Community Access to Pharmacist Services Act, bipartisan legislation that would ensure patients continue to have access to essential pandemic and pandemic-related health services provided by pharmacists, including services to keep communities safe from COVID-19 and future public health threats.

More than 100 national and state-based associations representing patients, pharmacists, community pharmacies and rural and undeserved communities applauded the legislation.

[Read more: NACDS, Johns Hopkins report: Pharmacies play a vital role in achieving health equity]

In addition to NACDS, APhA and ASHP, the Future of Pharmacy Care Coalition members supporting the legislation include AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health, CVS Health, Good Neighbor Pharmacy, Health Mart, Kroger, McKesson and Walgreens.

Steve Anderson, NACDS president and CEO, issued a statement that said, "Americans appreciated access to trusted, convenient and equitable pharmacies and pharmacy teams throughout the pandemic. The reality is that American’s ability to go to their pharmacies for COVID-19 vaccinations and testing — and other critical services — was largely possible because of a temporary public policy infrastructure built during the pandemic. Moving forward with confidence requires ensuring we remain prepared as a nation, and that means maintaining pharmacy access through this legislation."  

Anderson went on to say that NACDS expresses appreciation to Rep. Ron Kind (D-Wis.), Rep. David B. McKinley (R-W.Va), Rep. Nanette Diaz Barragán (D-Calif.) and Rep. Buddy Carter (R-Ga.) for taking up this issue. "It is critical for patients’ access to their pharmacies that this legislation is enacted," he said, adding, "When lessons and recommendations from the COVID-19 pandemic are discussed, enactment of this legislation should be among the top of the list."

Anderson cited a Morning Consult poll commissioned by NACDS and conducted February 15-16 found that two-in-three adults (68%) rate pharmacies’ response to COVID-19 as excellent or good — only two points behind hospitals, which rated highest. When thinking about health care, over four-in-five adults (86%) indicate that it is easy to access pharmacies — positioning them as the most accessible entities tested.

“Pharmacies provide more than two of every three COVID-19 vaccination doses. Half of pharmacy COVID-19 vaccination sites are located in areas with high social vulnerability, and 70% of pharmacy testing sites are in areas with moderate to severe social vulnerability. There is a pharmacy within 5 miles of 90% of Americans. The capacity of healthcare delivery in America is such that the pandemic response could not have happened without pharmacies. Americans deserve a reliable healthcare delivery system that builds that fact and that preparedness into the future of pandemic response,” Anderson noted.

Anderson concluded, "NACDS is among the Future of Pharmacy Care Coalition members supporting this pivotal legislation, which would not only help the nation better prepare for future COVID-19 variants and health crises, but would also empower the healthcare system to provide equitable and convenient access to routine care across communities."

“During the pandemic, it is clear that pharmacists, as accessible healthcare professionals for COVID-19 testing, treatment and immunization, stepped up to provide critical care,” said Scott Knoer, APhA executive vice president and CEO. “This legislation will cement pharmacists’ role in delivering this essential care after the pandemic and in future public health emergencies.”

[Read more: NACDS report highlights role local pharmacies, pharmacists play in patient-centered services]

ASHP issued a statement which said, "H.R. 7213 would help ensure that patients, particularly those living in rural and urban settings, can receive point of service testing, treatment and vaccine services provided by pharmacists for COVID-19, influenza, respiratory syncytial virus and strep throat. The legislation would also establish Medicare coverage and payment for pharmacist and pharmacy-provided services during public health emergencies designated by the Department of Health and Human Services."

“The COVID-19 pandemic shined a critical light on how difficult it is for patients in historically underserved communities to access essential services and achieve optimal medication therapy outcomes,” said ASHP CEO Paul Abramowitz. “ASHP has been a longstanding leader and advocate for policies that recognize the essential roles pharmacists play as patient care providers. The introduction of H.R. 7213 is an important milestone as we build on successes ASHP has led at the state and federal levels to enable patients to access needed care from pharmacists. We commend the bill sponsors and will work diligently to help ensure the success of this critically important legislation.”

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