Industry considers swift return of provider status legislation positive momentum

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Industry considers swift return of provider status legislation positive momentum

By Michael Johnsen - 01/13/2017

ARLINGTON, Va. – Provider status is back on the Congressional menu as the Pharmacy and Medically Underserved Areas Enhancement Act (S. 109) was reintroduced Thursday with the bipartisan original co-sponsorship of more than one-quarter of the U.S. Senate. The return of that critical piece of legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives also is anticipated shortly.

Could this be the year?

“We consider this bill’s swift and strong re-introduction a credit to [the] leaders in Congress, a credit to pro-patient and pro-pharmacy advocates and a credit to the powerful story of pharmacies as the face of neighborhood healthcare," stated Steven Anderson, president and CEO of the National Association of Chain Drug Stores. "We want today’s bill re-introduction to serve as an acceleration, and not just a continuation, of the campaign to enhance the quality, accessibility and affordability of patient care through pharmacist-provided services.”

[In what may be a serendipitous turn of events, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday issued a report outlining the disparities between medically underserved communities in rural areas vs. their urban center counterparts.]

The bill has been shepherded by Sens. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, Susan Collins, R-Maine, Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, and Bob Casey, D-Pa., NACDS noted. “NACDS thanks all of the 27 Senators who have made a powerful statement about this legislation by signing on as original cosponsors and sustaining this bill’s momentum from the 114th Congress into the current 115th Congress," Anderson added.

“The American Pharmacists Association is pleased to see the re-introduction of legislation in the Senate that will increase patient access to health care by taking advantage of pharmacists — an important but often underutilized member of the patient’s health care team,” commented Thomas Menighan, EVP and CEO for the American Pharmacists Association. “APhA looks forward to the reintroduction of companion legislation in the House in the coming weeks.”

The bill would allow underserved Medicare patients to receive certain services from pharmacists, in states in which pharmacists already are permitted to administer the functions. Examples of these services include immunizations; helping seniors manage chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart conditions and asthma; conducting wellness or prevention testing; and helping seniors take their medications correctly and as prescribed. Nurse practitioners and physicians’ assistants currently can provide these services through Medicare.

“Pharmacists remain among the most highly trusted professionals. That, combined with their extensive education and accessibility, create tremendous opportunities for patient care,” Anderson said.

To sit for pharmacy Board licensure exams, candidates must have a Doctor of Pharmacy degree, which requires a minimum of six years of professional education. Highly-educated pharmacists are tremendously accessible, with most Americans – 91% – living within five miles of a community pharmacy. The trust earned by pharmacists is reflected in their maintenance of the second-place ranking, right behind nurses, in Gallup’s annual Honesty and Ethics survey across diverse professions.

The bill reached impressive levels of bipartisan support in the prior Congress, with half of the Senate and two-thirds of the U.S. House of Representatives co-sponsoring the measure, NACDS noted. Of the 293 2016 co-sponsors behind elevating pharmacists as healthcare providers, 255 are back at their desks in 2017, NACDS shared. And in the Senate, 46 of the 51 cosponsors returned to the Hill.