Pharmacists seek federal recognition

The month of March came in like a lion, indeed, but not because of the weather. The month began with a roar as a group of the largest and most influential pharmacy associations and chains came together to form the Patient Access to Pharmacists’ Care Coalition, or PAPCC, in an effort to secure formal federal recognition of pharmacists as healthcare providers. 

As discussed in this column in the November 2013 issue, provider status for pharmacists is an issue that gained huge momentum over the past year, particularly when in October 2013, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed the state’s pharmacist provider status into law, enabling pharmacists to be paid for their patient care services. The formation of PAPCC was motivated by the need to get the Federal government to buy into the idea that care by pharmacists improves outcomes for patients and lowers healthcare costs, as numerous studies have already shown.

The coalition

Nine major associations, including  the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP), American Pharmacists Association (APhA), American Society of Consultant Pharmacists (ASCP), American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP), Food Marketing Institute (FMI), International Academy of Compounding Pharmacists (IACP), National Alliance of State Pharmacy Associations (NASPA), National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS) and National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA) are part of the Patient Access to Pharmacists’ Care Coalition. In addition, numerous pharmacies and wholesalers have signed on, including Albertson’s, AmerisourceBergen, Bi-Lo, Cardinal Health, CVS Caremark, Rite Aid, Safeway and Walgreens, among others.  

“What do we want? Recognition! When do we want it? As soon as possible!” 

PAPCC will head the effort to push for a federal legislative proposal, enabling patient access to and reimbursement for Medicare Part B services by pharmacists in medically underserved communities. Because pharmacists were not originally included in Medicare Part B, beneficiaries have limited access to pharmacists’ services on an outpatient basis. And due to the omission of pharmacists under Medicare, state and private plans also have failed to include pharmacists as providers, or to compensate them. PAPCC’s goal is to change that.

“This group will be knocking on the doors of Congress to ensure that pharmacists are formally recognized for their work as healthcare providers under federal law,” wrote APhA EVP and CEO, Thomas Menighan, on his weekly blog. “As we gain federal recognition, it will be easier for pharmacists to provide the critical care that our patients rely on, which will reduce system costs, improve patient outcomes and expand professional opportunities for pharmacists.”

On his blog on the ASHP website, ASHP CEO Paul Abramowitz wrote that “the proposal also will establish a mechanism to pay for pharmacist provider services as a percentage of the current physician fee schedule, or pursuant to pharmacists’ specific codes as part of that schedule.”

Stepping up

In conjunction with the development of PAPCC, and as part of its annual meeting at the end of March, APhA is launching a new marketing campaign — Pharmacists Provide Care. The campaign is designed to raise awareness of the value of pharmacists and the care they provide to their patients in order to gain support for pharmacist provider status. More information on the campaign and on PAPCC will be released at APhA’s annual meeting at the end of March.

As PAPCC gears up toward its goal of getting bills introduced into Congress — like H.R. 4190, which would allow pharmacists to work to their full capability by providing underserved patients in the Medicare program with services not currently available to them — it seeks support from pharmacists on the national, state and local levels. According to Abramowitz, “As federal advocacy takes place, it will be equally, if not more important, for pharmacists and their partners in the stakeholder community at the state and local level to take an assertive stance and leading role in persuading their elected officials in Washington to support provider status for pharmacists under Medicare Part B.” Menighan agreed that “there will be numerous opportunities to lend your voice and contribute to this cause,” but in the meantime, educational materials, resources and tools are available at Pharmacist.com/ProviderStatusRecognition. 

 

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