Provider status momentum: Forty Members of Congress and counting!

I am excited to report that the issue of provider status is receiving increased attention in both the mainstream media and with policy makers. We’re seeing a groundswell of support to afford beneficiaries access to pharmacists’ services and to recognize pharmacists as valued members of the health care team. Our goal is to get your unique skills and extensive education in the game to enhance patient health. 

First, 40 Members of Congress have signed on as cosponsors to H.R. 4190, the bipartisan bill that would amend Title XVIII of the Social Security Act to give pharmacists the provider status they deserve. On behalf of pharmacists across the country, I want to thank these leaders for their support. … and, if not, please today!

As you know, although pharmacists are trained to provide many services and forms of health care to patients, pharmacists are not considered “health care providers” nor are pharmacists’ patient care services recognized under the Medicare Part B section of the Social Security Act. Nearly all other health professionals, including chiropractors, midwives, and dietitians, are rightfully covered under Medicare laws—but not pharmacists. 

This is especially important because millions of Americans live in medically underserved areas across the country, and the American Association of Medical Colleges predicts that by 2020, the shortage will amount to more than 90,000 physicians, including a shortage of 45,000 primary care physicians. Recognizing pharmacists as a part of a patient’s health care team will alleviate some physician challenges to support medication use. Pharmacists can help with services such as medication therapy management (MTM), chronic disease management, transition of care services, and health and wellness screenings.

In addition to the growing support on the Hill, this week Forbes published an article on the pivotal role that pharmacists can play on the patient’s health care team. The article says pharmacists can help fill the gap in access to health care services through MTM. As you know, through MTM, pharmacists collect information, evaluate and assess patients’ complete medication treatment, and develop plans to resolve medication-related problems including issues related to drug interactions, drug reactions, untreated conditions, and inappropriate use of medications.  

Medicare and health care costs in general continue to skyrocket. There is a growing emphasis on developing strategies to improve patient outcomes and reduce unnecessary health care spending. Services such as MTM could help reduce hospital readmissions and additional health care services related to adverse drug events. According to the article, when extrapolated to the entire Medicare population, MTM alone could reduce health care spending by $3 billion.

While passing H.R. 4190 may seem like a no-brainer to pharmacists across the country (and research shows that 8 in 10 people already consider pharmacists a part of a patient’s overall health care team), it is important to let your Member of Congress know the importance of this issue. Write a letter today to your elected officials by visiting our Legislative Action Center.