With all the pomp and circumstance of putting a new President into office behind us, it’s time for the legislators who were elected to roll up their sleeves and get down to work. Unfortunately, if campaign promises are to be believed, at the top of their “to-do” list is to take a wrecking ball to many of the laws and diplomacies that were put into place by the last administration, like the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which is precariously perched on a precipice with a majority of legislators lined to up push it over. This will undoubtedly result in its untimely death. While the ACA is not a perfect law, it affords millions of Americans the opportunity to be covered by health insurance; unfortunately, the effects that any replacement will have on health care are still unknown. On a more positive note, one thing we know for sure is that pharmacists will continue to play a crucial role in administering vital healthcare information to their patients throughout any transition.
However, for pharmacists to fully integrate their knowledge and professional stewardship in this country’s future healthcare environment, they must be fully vested as a member of healthcare team. They must be granted provider status so that their professional services can be completely accessed by older Americans, especially those in underserved areas on Medicare and Medicaid. I was pleased to learn that Senators Grassley (R-Iowa), Bob Casey (D-Penn.), and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) recently re-introduced their bipartisan legislation known as The Pharmacy and Medically Underserved Areas Enhancement Act (S.109). The bill would allow Medicare patients to receive certain clinical services from pharmacists in states where they are permitted. These include, but are not limited to, immunizations, medication therapy management, and wellness and prevention testing.
As Yogi Berra was fond of saying, “It’s déjà vu all over again.” Provider status for pharmacists has been discussed and debated for decades in one form or another, but shortsighted legislators always kicked the can down the road. I think with this proposed legislation, provider status is well within pharmacists’ reach. And, there is no better time; with the uncertainty over healthcare’s future hanging ominously like a dark cloud over the heads of millions of Americans, pharmacists continue to be a breath of fresh air and sunshine always available to help patients better understand their medications and medical conditions. I encourage every pharmacist to write to Senators Grassley, Casey, and Brown in support of this legislation, because as Yogi would tell you, “It ain’t over until it’s over.”