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Bipartisan legislation would designate pharmacists as healthcare providers in Medicare Part B
ARLINGTON, Va. — Bipartisan legislation has been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives that would formally designate pharmacists as healthcare providers under Medicare Part B.
The Pharmacy and Medically Underserved Areas Enhancement Act (H.R. 592) — introduced by Reps. Brett Guthrie, R-Ky., G.K. Butterfield, D-N.C., Todd Young, R-Ind., and Ron Kind, D-Wisc. — would elevate pharmacists’ ability to improve patient health. Specifically, Medicare patients would gain enhanced access to pharmacists’ expertise and pharmacy services, including immunizations, diabetes screenings and self-management education, cardiovascular screenings and behavioral therapy, in states in which pharmacists are allowed to provide these services.
The bill would amend The Social Security Act of 1935 to enable pharmacists to provide to Medicare patients in underserved communities services that pharmacists already are providing for other patients under state law.
The bill — which has been referred to as "common-sense legislation" — has garnered the support of leading industry players, including the National Association of Chain Drug Stores and the National Community Pharmacist Association.
“We applaud the leadership of Reps. Guthrie, Butterfield, Young and Kind in introducing this bipartisan, commonsense legislation,” stated NACDS president and CEO Steve Anderson. “The provider status designation will amplify pharmacists’ ability to do what they do best — serve patients and help them on the road to better health.”
The legislation focuses on medically underserved communities, as defined by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Categories of underserved communities include elderly and rural populations, residents of public housing, areas with a shortage of primary care providers and with high poverty rates, and persons with HIV/AIDS, among others.
“As one of the most trusted healthcare professionals, and arguably the most accessible healthcare professionals, pharmacists are uniquely positioned to provide services to patients, particularly among those in underserved communities where healthcare may not be readily available,” Anderson added.
Examples of pharmacist-provided services that would be available to Medicare patients — on a state-by-state basis according to their unique laws — include vaccination screening and delivery, chronic disease management and preventive screenings, such as testing of glucose, blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
Many patients in the Medicare Part B program also rely on their pharmacists to provide durable medical equipment and other supplies to help them manage chronic diseases and conditions.
Expressing his support, NCPA CEO B. Douglas Hoey stated, “NCPA and its pharmacy allies have for years advocated broadening the array of services these clinically-trained medication experts can provide to patients. Momentum continues to grow with the introduction of H.R. 592, a bill that benefits patients who otherwise have limited health care options – those in underserved communities.
“Independent community pharmacies are particularly well-positioned to better help patients through expanded ‘provider status.’ They already play a vital role in underserved communities. Their importance in rural America is illustrated by the facts that over 70 percent of independent community pharmacies are located in towns of 50,000 people or less and in approximately 1,800 rural towns independent community pharmacies are the sole pharmacy providers available. In addition, within urban areas independent community pharmacies play a disproportionately large role serving patients.”
Identical legislation introduced in the House last year, in the 113th Congress, garnered strong bipartisan support with 123 cosponsors, and also was supported by NACDS.
Public support for the legislation also is proving strong across political party leanings. A July Internet survey of likely voters, who are informed and engaged when it comes to current events, found that 79% of respondents favor the legislation — including 36% who strongly favor it. The survey, conducted by Public Opinion Strategies and commissioned by NACDS, found that 85% of democrats and 76% of republicans support it.
“The recognition by congressional leaders of pharmacists’ increasingly important role in the delivery of healthcare services is growing, and important progress is being made for the ultimate benefit of patients. We look forward to working with lawmakers as they pursue the enactment of this legislation,” Anderson stated.
NACDS and NCPA are members of the Patient Access to Pharmacists’ Care Coalition, which seeks to ensure all licensed pharmacists are able to care for Medicare patients to the full extent of state scope of practice laws. PAPCC has also issued a joint statement on the legislation.
“PAPCC commends the leadership of Representatives Brett Guthrie (R-KY), Todd Young (R- IN), G.K. Butterfield (D-NC), and Ron Kind (D-WI) for introducing H.R. 592. The legislation will enable Medicare patients in medically underserved communities to better access health care through state-licensed pharmacists,” stated Vince Ventimiglia, president of Leavitt Partners Collaborative Advocates and advisor to PAPCC.
“This legislation seeks to increase Medicare patient access to important health care services, such as health and wellness screenings, and chronic disease management by enabling pharmacists to provide services they already are authorized to provide under state law, and prepared to provide through their extensive professional education,” added Ventimiglia, “We look forward to working with Congress to enact this important legislation into law.”
CVS Health announces new clinical affiliations in Kansas, Louisiana
WOONSOCKET, R.I. — CVS Health has entered into new clinical affiliations with LSU Healthcare Network in New Orleans and Shawnee Mission Health in Kansas.
Through these clinical affiliations the patients served by these health systems will continue to have access to clinical support, medication counseling, chronic disease monitoring and wellness programs at CVS/pharmacy stores and MinuteClinic. In addition, CVS Health will provide prescription and visit information to the participating medical centers through the integration of secured electronic medical record systems.
"We look forward to working with these leading regional health systems to develop collaborative programs that improve patient outcomes, lower costs and help people on their path to better health," said Troyen Brennan, chief medical officer, CVS Health. "Through these clinical affiliations, we will also be integrating our electronic medical records and information systems to enable us to support patients with medication counseling and chronic disease monitoring."
The healthcare providers at the participating health systems will receive data on interventions conducted by CVS pharmacists to improve medication adherence for their patients. The affiliation also encourages collaboration between the healthcare providers and MinuteClinic providers to improve coordination of care for patients seen at MinuteClinic locations. Physicians affiliated with the participating health systems will collaborate with MinuteClinic nurse practitioners to work closely on joint clinical programs and care coordination activities. If more comprehensive care is needed, patients can follow up with their primary care provider and have access to the services at the medical center as appropriate. For those patients who do not have regular access to health care, MinuteClinic provides information to help patients in finding a primary care physician and a greater opportunity for continuity of healthcare services.
"Finding cost-effective ways to increase access to care continues to be important, especially in this era of healthcare reform, and we are pleased to work together with these healthcare providers to help coordinate comprehensive care for their patients," Brennan said. "Many patients rely on their local pharmacist for information and support regarding their prescription medications and these affiliations enable CVS pharmacists to help improve affiliated health care providers' patient health outcomes through better medication adherence. MinuteClinic also plays an important role by providing patients with timely, affordable and high-quality walk-in health care."
MinuteClinic, CVS/pharmacy and the participating health systems will begin to work toward integrating EMR systems to streamline communication. This integration will include the electronic sharing of messages and alerts from CVS/pharmacy to the health systems' physicians regarding potential medication non-adherence issues. In addition, MinuteClinic will electronically share medical histories and visit summaries with the patient's primary care physician when they are part of a health system affiliate and with the patient's consent. MinuteClinic will continue its standard practice of sending patient visit summaries to primary care providers who are not affiliated with one of these participating health systems via fax or mail, with patient consent.
These new clinical affiliations bring the total number of health system and healthcare provider affiliations for CVS Health and MinuteClinic to 50 major health systems and healthcare providers across the country.