WASHINGTON – Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Bob Casey (D-Penn.), Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) today introduced legislation to encourage pharmacists to serve older Americans in communities lacking easy access to doctors or where pharmacists are more convenient to visit for certain services than doctors.
“A lot of people in rural Iowa have easier access to a pharmacist than a doctor,” Grassley said. “Where that pharmacist is licensed to provide a service that could have been provided by a doctor, Medicare ought to pay the pharmacist for it. That’s what this bill does. It’s good for pharmacists because they get paid for providing services to rural seniors. It’s good for rural seniors because they keep access to their local pharmacist and don’t have to track down their doctor for straightforward medication management. It’s good for the taxpayer as well because Medicare won’t pay as much as it would if the senior had gone to a physician.”
“Across the country and in Pennsylvania pharmacists play a critical role in helping seniors receive access to routine healthcare services like wellness checks,” Casey said. “This legislation will aid those in rural communities who may not live in close proximity to the doctor but do have regular contact with their pharmacist. I’m hopeful that Congress will move forward on this commonsense legislation in the coming year.”
“Pharmacists are a critical part of the solution to address health care across rural and underserved areas of Illinois,” Kirk said. “Ensuring easy access to basic health services, such as immunizations and medication management, will improve care for those who need it most.”
“Seniors in rural and remote areas of Ohio are often forced to travel long distances to see their doctor for basic services when their pharmacist is around the corner,” Brown said. “This bill would improve access to routine screening and services where seniors live – improving care and saving taxpayer dollars.”
The Pharmacy and Medically Underserved Areas Enhancement Act encourages pharmacists to offer health care services such as health and wellness screenings, immunizations and diabetes management by authorizing Medicare payments for those services where pharmacists are already licensed under state law to provide them. Most states already allow pharmacists to provide these services but there currently is no way for pharmacists to receive Medicare reimbursement for providing them.
A companion bill has been introduced in the House of Representatives.