Washington, D.C.—A bipartisan bill has been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives to authorize pharmacists to provide care and receive reimbursement for pandemic-related services for our nation's seniors.

The Equitable Community Access to Pharmacist Services Act, H.R. 7213, would grant pharmacists provider status under specific circumstances—a long-time goal of pharmacy associations.

The bill was introduced by Reps. Ron Kind (D-WI), David B. McKinley (R-WV), Nanette Diaz Barragán (D-CA), and Buddy Carter (R-GA). Designed to ensure patients can continue to access COVID-19 pandemic and pandemic-related health services from pharmacists, it would provide coverage for pharmacist services under Medicare Part B for COVID-19 and flu vaccines, as well as testing and treatment for COVID, flu, and strep throat. It would also pay for respiratory syncytial virus testing.

The bill has broad support from the American Pharmacists Association (APhA), the National Community Pharmacists Association, and other industry groups.

The APhA pointed out, "For two years, the pandemic has demonstrated how essential pharmacists are in providing care and services—especially to patients in under-represented, underserved, and/or rural communities. In fact, pharmacists administered more COVID-19 vaccine doses than any other health care professional."

It adds that the bill "establishes a federal reimbursement mechanism for pharmacists' services under Medicare Part B, addresses existing limitations in our laws, and ensures patients can continue to access essential care and services provided by pharmacists, who are the most trusted and accessible healthcare professionals on whom entire communities have come to rely."

Adding that the legislation "would align reimbursement with the services pharmacists are trained to provide and give underserved patients more access to crucial care," the APhA advised that provider status legislation would do the following:

• Include pharmacists as eligible providers for Medicare Part B beneficiaries for services related to the COVID-19 pandemic and specific infectious diseases, such as testing (for COVID-19, flu, RSV, and strep throat), treatment (for COVID-19, flu, and strep throat), and vaccinations (for COVID-19 and flu).
• Help prepare for future public health emergencies by creating a mechanism to establish Medicare coverage and payment for pharmacy- and pharmacist-provided services.
• Authorize the Department of Health and Human Services secretary to identify services as needed, including closing gaps in health equity.
• Generally, be limited to state scope of practice or incident to physician's services, unless more broadly defined under a PREP Act declaration.
• Aid underserved patients by enabling pharmacists to provide services to Medicare beneficiaries in order to address COVID-19 and other urgent health needs in all areas of the country.

On the other hand, the legislation currently in Congress does not provide Medicare reimbursement for all services such as medication and chronic disease management, health and wellness screenings, and education; recognize pharmacists as healthcare providers for all Medicare patients; supersede state scope of practice law; or replace other pharmacy association efforts to pass status-related legislation, including the Pharmacy and Medically Underserved, according to APhA.

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