I used to belly laugh every time I heard comic Rodney Dangerfield utter his now-iconic line “I get no respect,” which was usually followed by a barrage of jokes. I can’t help thinking that many pharmacists can probably do the same act but without the jokes, because for a dedicated healthcare professional, getting no respect is not so funny.
Pharmacists have provided invaluable medication and general healthcare information to billions of patients over the years, arguably saving or prolonging their lives while sparing the healthcare system billions of dollars in doctor and hospital visits. Through their medication-management efforts, pharmacists continue to keep patients healthier. Despite these achievements, pharmacists have clearly never gained the professional respect they deserve from the federal government, as evidenced by the fact they have yet to be granted federal healthcare provider status.
Pharmacists have earned the right to be treated with the same degree of respect as other healthcare professionals who deliver critical health services. As a professional group, pharmacists have the power to make this happen. Whether or not it is obvious, there is a movement of tsunamic proportions under way, beginning with the formation of the Patient Access to Pharmacists’ Care Coalition. The list of prestigious participants is quite impressive. Among its members are pharmacy associations, chains, independents, and drug wholesalers. This is one of the few times that all practice settings of pharmacy have come together for a common cause. According to the American Pharmacists Association, the group was formed to help “push for a federal legislative proposal to enable patient access to, and reimbursement for, Medicare Part B services by state-licensed pharmacies in medically underserved communities and consistent with state scope of practice.” It is gratifying to see these companies put their fierce competitiveness aside to drive this campaign.
Last month H.R. 4190, which would amend the Social Security Act to recognize pharmacists as providers under Medicare Part B, was introduced by Reps. Brett Guthrie (R.-Ky.), G. K. Butterfield (D.-N.C.), and Todd Young (R.-Ind.). According to the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, which signed onto the coalition, “This change will help address gaps in our nation’s health care system by increasing access to pharmacists’ services for patients who live in underserved communities.” On another front, the National Association of Chain Drug Stores submitted a statement to the House Budget Committee and the Ways and Means Committee that underscores the importance of pharmacists in providing “access to medications and over-the counter products, as well as cost-effective health services such as immunizations and disease screenings.” The statement also emphasizes the benefits of face-to face consultations and access to preventive services “in partnership with doctors, nurses and others.”
The support for this bill by pharmacy groups and individuals is unprecedented. I urge all pharmacists to get involved in supporting this groundswell. They should contact lawmakers in their states and districts to pass this piece of legislation. It’s time that we left Rodney Dangerfield behind; pharmacists are respected healthcare professionals and, as such, should be recognized as healthcare providers by the federal government.
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