Part 2: Medicare Part B Provider Status for Pharmacists

In part 2 of this interview with Drug Topics®, Ken Perez, MBA, vice president of Healthcare Policy and Government Affairs at Omnicell, spoke about current provider status legislation circulating in the House and Senate.

Drug Topics®: “Can you tell me a little bit about why this legislation is supported on both sides of the political aisle?”

Perez: “Yeah, it’s wonderful. I mean the bipartisan support is significant. You’re seeing both Democrats and Republicans [support this bill]. The House bill is authored by a Democrat, the Senate bill is authored by a Republican, Chuck Grassly, he’s one of the hands of the Senate.

This is a societal problem. This is not a red versus blue state or Republican versus Democrat [problem]. And I think just to highlight the significance of this to support the fact that this is bipartisan, you have these very prominent Senators on both sides of the aisle supporting it. This is a commonsense solution. I call it a switch, in terms of solving a problem that’s been a long-standing problem. And long-standing problems oftentimes don’t have quick fixes.

Now, this is one approach that could really make a difference and help people who are particularly struggling in very specific areas and specific populations. That’s one of the key points. It’s a surgical solution, in the sense that it’s not across the board carte blanche for pharmacists to provide primary care in every setting, its typically in these underserved areas- that’s the key point. That’s the whole thing is that this is a specific need in kind of a surgical way.”

Drug Topics®: “How would this legislation help advance the pharmacy profession and allow pharmacists to be more patient focused and practice at the top of their license?”

Perez: “Yeah, I mean, there’s no question. Pharmacists want to practice at the top of their licenses. The reason they’re in patient healthcare is because they want to be patient focused, whether you talk to nurses, physicians, pharmacists, they care about patients. That’s why people go in general, and I think the pharmacists definitely want that. This allows them to have a financial reward for providing the primary care that they want to provide, and they do provide for commercially ensured populations in many states. 37 states I believe, they have provider status.

This is really something that fulfills some of their dreams, some of their passions, why they went into pharmacy school and became pharmacists. It’s kind of fulfillment of what they wanted to do.”

Drug Topics®: What would provider status mean for pharmacists and the future of healthcare?

Perez: “This whole area of immunizations is going to be a continuing challenge for us. It just marries up the role of pharmacists with I would say a continuing societal need we’re going to have years, I think that’s the key point. This positions pharmacists and allows them to play a new, second expanded role specifically with the Medicare population.

This would be 45-50 million Americans that are going to be benefitting at least from access to primary care pharmacists in a variety of settings and millions of folks these underserved areas opportunity to get some primary care has really helped them and remember the fact that medicare beneficiaries take more medications on average than the non medicare population and we’ve also learned from other research that these people in these underserved areas, guess what medication adherence rates are actually lower than in other areas.

So, not only do they take more medications, but they actually have more challenges, I would say in being adherent to their prescriptions so that’s something I would say this really would help as well.