WASHINGTONSens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Bob Casey (D-Penn.) and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) today re-introduced bipartisan legislation encouraging pharmacists to serve older Americans in communities lacking easy access to doctors or where pharmacists are able to provide certain basic medical services.
“A lot of people in rural Iowa have easier access to a pharmacist than a doctor. Where that pharmacist is licensed to provide a service, 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. And it’s good for rural seniors because they keep access to their local pharmacist and don’t have to go to the doctor for straightforward medication management,” Grassley said.
“The pandemic has underscored the plight of underserved older Americans, including those living in rural communities. Rural older adults are at increased risk for many chronic diseases and yet many still face barriers in accessing basic health care services. This important legislation would allow pharmacists to support the health needs of seniors in rural communities by increasing access to routine care, like wellness checks and management of chronic diseases,” Casey said.
“Seniors in rural Ohio shouldn’t have to travel long distances to see their doctor for a vaccine when the pharmacist down the street can offer the same services. We can better serve our seniors and taxpayers by cutting through the red tape and giving seniors more choice on where they go for care,” Brown said.
The Pharmacy and Medically Underserved Areas Enhancement Act of 2021 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. Many states already allow pharmacists to provide these services but there currently is no way for pharmacists to receive Medicare reimbursement for providing them.
Supporters of the bill include the Iowa Pharmacy Association, the American Pharmacists Association and the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists
“Pharmacists have been essential in helping ensure patients have convenient access to health services during the pandemic. Recognizing pharmacists as providers under Medicare is a crucial next step in helping to expand the care and service available to patients from their local pharmacist,” said Kate Gainer, Executive Vice President & CEO of the Iowa Pharmacy Association.
“The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has further illustrated how difficult it is for some patients living in medically underserved communities to access care and achieve optimal medication therapy outcomes. This legislation recognizes that pharmacists can play an integral role in addressing these longstanding disparities and helps ensure that our most vulnerable patients can access the care they need,” said Paul W Abramowitz, CEO of American Society of Health-System Pharmacists.
“In most states, pharmacists already provide a wide range of patient care services, such as immunizations, blood pressure and cholesterol monitoring, diabetes care, and smoking cessation services. This legislation would provide Medicare beneficiaries in underserved areas with access to pharmacists who can provide these services on a regular basis. This will keep them healthier and control health care costs,” the American Pharmacists Association said.
Text of the Pharmacy and Medically Underserved Areas Enhancement Act of 2021 is available HERE. Identical legislation was introduced in the House by Representatives G.K. Butterfield (D, NC-1) and David McKinley (R, WV-1).