This past week, the Pharmacy and Medically Underserved Areas Enhancement Act was reintroduced by three senators from different states. This legislation aims to allow pharmacists to receive Medicare reimbursements for delivering immunizations and helping community members, especially seniors, adhere to medications in underserved areas of the United States.
A companion bill is also planned in the House of Representatives.
Most Americans visit their pharmacist more often than their primary care physician, and certainly more frequently than specialized clinicians. Pharmacists, however, are often underutilized in the healthcare industry, even though they have direct and frequent contact with patients.
If the bill passes, pharmacists would also play a larger role in helping patients with limited access to healthcare manage chronic conditions such as diabetes and HIV. Both community and hospital pharmacists have the potential to greatly impact patient outcomes and treatment plans, which makes this bill life changing for many patients.
The American Pharmacists Association (APhA) fully supports the proposed bill, which would require Medicare to pay pharmacists for their clinical services. “APhA is pleased to see the reintroduction of legislation in the Senate that will increase patient access to healthcare by taking advantage of pharmacists—an important but often underutilized member of the patient’s healthcare team,” the organization said in a statement.
The APhA is most excited about the potential for pharmacists to help rural seniors with medication management, since many elderly patients end up in the hospital after experiencing adverse drug events from issues such as polypharmacy. Often, patients living in underserved areas of the United States have to travel many miles to see their physicians. This bill would help them receive quality care closer to home, giving them the information they need to successfully manage their conditions.