Taking pharmacy’s case to health leadership

Are you and your fellow pharmacists ready to start explaining health insurance exchanges and other aspects of the rapidly unfolding health reform law to patients?

Apparently, the thousands of pharmacists who staff CVS Caremark’s more than 7,500 stores are. The chain showcased a new patient outreach effort Sept. 13 by hosting Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of Health and Human Services, at one of its stores in Orlando, Fla., and in the process made a strong case for pharmacy’s value as a national healthcare resource.

The store tour gave CVS Caremark CEO Larry Merlo a chance to make that case with Kathleen Sebelius, the federal government’s top health official. On display: the chain’s extensive, companywide information and outreach program, aimed at helping patients sort through the confusing menu of insurance options served up by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

That includes the choices that will be available through the health insurance exchanges mandated by the health reform law. The time to prepare for those choices is short: open enrollment in the exchanges is supposed to be available to Medicaid patients Oct. 1, and the health plans participating in the exchanges are required to begin providing coverage to those patients as of Jan. 1, 2014.

To help patients navigate the new coverage landscape opened by the ACA, said Merlo, CVS will host some 5,000 in-store educational events with health insurance experts, including representatives of state exchanges and local health plans who will explain the new insurance program. Its stores will also host free health screening events this month.

Sebelius seemed impressed, and expressed appreciation for CVS’ “commitment to providing Americans with the information they need about the Health Insurance Marketplace.”

The store tour dovetailed nicely with an opinion piece issued the same day by Steven Anderson, president and CEO of the National Association of Chain Drug Stores. In a column dated Sept. 13, Anderson cites remarks made by the HHS secretary who also points to the high degree of trust Americans have for pharmacists. “In an NACDS opinion survey,” he writes, “more than nine-out-of-ten respondents said they had a great deal or some confidence in their local pharmacist as a source of health advice in general — including 43 percent who said they had a ‘great deal’ of confidence in their pharmacist.”

If you’re a pharmacist who deals directly with patients, please share your own thoughts and your own encounters with patients regarding health insurance exchanges and other aspects of the ACA. As always, your feedback is appreciated.


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