New Legislation Aims to Expand Access to Pharmacist Care in Underserved Areas

The bill was introduced by Rep. GK Butterfield (D-NC) and Rep. David McKinley (R-WV), citing challenges in receiving care for those in rural and underserved areas and pharmacist accessibility to these populations.

Today, the American Pharmacists Association (APhA) and the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) released joint support statement for the introduction of a bill aimed at increasing access to critical primary health care services for medically underserved communities.

The new legislation, named the Pharmacy and Medically Underserved Area Enhancement Act, would empower pharmacists to offer Medicare Part B services already authorized in their states of practice.

“The legislation does not expand scope of practice, but brings Medicare rules in alignment with existing authorities granted to pharmacists by many states and health care organizations through credentialing and privileging programs,” according to the news release.

The services involved in the legislation include:

  1. medication management;
  2. management of chronic conditions, such as diabetes, hypertension, and other related conditions;
  3. cholesterol testing;
  4. point-of-care (POC) testing for COVID-19, influenza, strep, and others;
  5. immunization screening and administration not currently covered by Medicare Part B and D;
  6. tobacco cessation services; and
  7. transition of care services.

Rep. GK Butterfield (D-NC) and Rep. David McKinley (R-WV) introduced the bill, citing the many challenges in receiving medical care for individuals in underserved areas within their respective jurisdictions in North Carolina and West Virginia.

“Pharmacists can provide wellness testing, help manage chronic disease, and administer immunizations,” said Rep. Butterfield. “The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted how accessible pharmacists are and how they can be leveraged to improve the health of communities. Pharmacists in eastern North Carolina are helping people to live longer, healthier, and more fulfilling lives. But providing those services doesn’t come without a cost. I am proud to join my colleagues on this bipartisan measure that will ensure our pharmacists are appropriately reimbursed and can continue to provide care to those in need.”

“In many states across the country, pharmacists are already critical members of the health care team, and are compensated appropriately for that work,” said Scott J. Knoer, MS, PharmD, FASHP, executive vice president and chief executive officer of APhA.

“It’s time for Medicare to get with the program and recognize what many states have already learned – pharmacists provide great care,” Knoer said.

Reference

  1. Pharmacy Association Applaud Introduction of Bill Expanding Medicare Patients’ Access to Pharmacist Services. News Release. APhA; April 22, 2021. Accessed April 22, 2021. https://pharmacist.com/APhA-Press-Releases/pharmacy-associations-applaud-introduction-of-bill-expanding-medicare-patients-access-to-pharmacist-services.