Home Advocate As healthcare providers, pharmacists must stand up for what they need and what patients deserve

As healthcare providers, pharmacists must stand up for what they need and what patients deserve

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Ongoing advocacy work is key to seeing state and federal legislative action come to fruition.

The past year has included a number of legislative and regulatory advances and victories for the pharmaceutical industry: the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) finalized their Medicare Part D rule,1 should require Part D plans to include pharmacy price concessions (commonly referred to as direct and indirect compensation (DIR) fees) in the negotiated point-of-sale price, and this should come into effect in 2024. bipartisan 2022 pharmacy benefit manager transparency2 was introduced by U.S. Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA). But perhaps most important to the future of the pharmacy profession was the introduction of bipartisan HR 7213, the Fair Community Access to Pharmacy Services Act.3

As founding members of the Future of Pharmacy Care Coalition, AmerisourceBergen and Good Neighbor Pharmacy met with industry peers, “working collaboratively to establish and develop new legislation that permanently recognizes pharmacists as providers to be reimbursed by Medicare for clinical services related to COVID-19 and other respiratory diseases,” said Beth Mitchell, senior director of government affairs at AmerisourceBergen. “The introduction of this bill is a significant legislative development.”

HR 7213 was introduced on March 24, 2022 by United States Representatives Ron Kind (D-WI), David B. McKinley (R-WV), Earl L. “Buddy” Carter (R-GA), and Nanette Diaz Barragán (D -CALIFORNIA).3.4 The bill’s objective is simple: “to ensure continued patient access to pandemic care services provided by pharmacists, including services to protect communities from COVID-19 and future public health “. To date, Mitchell said, more than 40 bipartisan members of Congress have co-sponsored the bill. For those not yet engaged, Mitchell, AB’s Public Affairs Group, and the Future of Pharmacy Care Coalition are working to educate members of Congress, federal agencies, and the administration to gain support. for the legislation.

In addition to 42 bipartisan representatives in the United States, HR 7213 is supported by organizations from the American Red Cross and the National Association of Black Nurses to the National Community Pharmacists Association, the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, the American Pharmacists Association and the State Pharmacy. groups. More than 80 organizations representing patients, seniors, and rural Americans support HR 7213.

“As healthcare evolves, pharmacists are going to be integral to the delivery of clinical services to patients,” Mitchell explained. “COVID-19 has shown that pharmacists are accessible and more than capable of providing this level of clinical care to their communities. »

“With the flexibilities that the COVID-19 public health emergency and the declarations of the PREP law have afforded pharmacists, we [AmerisourceBergen and Good Neighbor Pharmacy] have customer pharmacies that currently supply vaccines, tests and treatments for COVID-19, such as monoclonal antibodies and antivirals used to treat COVID-19. Now we are also seeing some of our stores being exploited by their local health jurisdictions to help roll out Monkeypox vaccines,” she added. “We have administered over 6 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine shipped to nearly 1,700 Good Neighbor pharmacies across the country; without pharmacists, we would not be where we are in terms of the country’s response to this pandemic.

Once the COVID-19 public health emergency ends and the PREP Act declarations finally expire, the flexibilities currently afforded to pharmacists “are at risk of disappearing,” Mitchell said. To prevent this, it is crucial to have legislation introduced and enacted at the federal level ensuring that pharmacists are recognized as health care providers capable of providing critical clinical care and receiving reimbursement from Medicare for services related to tests, vaccinations and treatment for COVID-19, influenza, strep throat and RSV.

An additional advantage of HR 7213? If passed, the bill would also “give the Secretary of Health and Human Services the ability, should a future public health emergency materialize, to call upon pharmacists again,” Mitchell said, allowing them to provide critical support in a timely manner.

“That’s what the bill seeks to do,” Mitchell said. “Giving pharmacists the ongoing ability to provide clinical care services related to COVID-19 and other respiratory illnesses, and then be reimbursed by Medicare for those services. All of this ultimately leads to improving health equity and ensuring patients have access to care in their pharmacy efficiently and quickly.

An independent focus

Although the COVID-19 pandemic has shone a spotlight on the importance of healthcare providers across the spectrum of practice, a bright light has been shed on independent pharmacists, a group that has rolled up its collective sleeves and went above and beyond to continue caring for patients in their communities. This spotlight, Mitchell said, led to a number of regulatory changes that had a direct impact on how independent pharmacists practice.

At the height of the pandemic, a list of bipartisan bills on Congress’s response to COVID-19, including the CARES Act (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security),5 have been adopted and promulgated; these federal laws included important provisions to make funds available to CMS to reimburse pharmacists for care provided. Combined with regulatory measures such as the PREP law and its subsequent amendments,6 independent pharmacists found themselves providing more care and services than ever before.

But, Mitchell said, “We need Congress to push hard-hitting bills like HR 7213. I think a lot of people are suffering from COVID-19 fatigue, including members of Congress and key officials. and federal agencies,” she explained. “Regardless of this, we must continue to advocate for permanent and long-needed change, and remind lawmakers of the patient care that pharmacists continue to provide in their communities. »

One way to encourage this congressional action is to capitalize on the momentum surrounding each legislative and regulatory victory.

“It’s important for citizens, pharmacists, pharmacy assistants, store managers, [and] patients…to be part of the process and involved,” Mitchell explained. “I love what I do because I can be an advocate for our customers and our business, but meaningful change happens when people and groups come together to advocate for a common issue of importance.”

For pharmacists and pharmacy technicians, it could be like inviting their congressman to visit their pharmacy, showing them in real time how independent pharmacists are helping their communities. Mitchell also encourages pharmacists to learn more about HR 7213 and ask their congressman to co-sponsor the legislation; AmerisourceBergen’s Our Independent Voice platform is one resource available, she noted, which includes an action page that allows pharmacists to contact their congressman.

Jennifer Shannon, PharmD, BCPS, owner of Lily’s Pharmacy in Johns Creek, Georgia and member of the Good Neighbor Pharmacy network, I never thought she would stand up for anything. “When we opened our pharmacy, someone said to me, ‘You’ll be at the table very quickly when your patients don’t have access to medicine,'” she said. Shannon spoke at the General Session of ThoughtSpot 2022 to discuss the future of pharmacy in the context of legislative advocacy work.

“Each of us building local relationships will ultimately help expand our reach [of practice]”, Shannon said. “At the federal level, we are working to achieve provider status. I really think working in your own communities — reaching out to our local and state legislators — will be key to expanding our collective reach. is extremely important and will continue to help demonstrate what we do [to lawmakers].”

Mitchell also highlighted the urgency and importance for pharmacists to achieve provider status and how this will improve health equity. “Once the current assortment of federal and state pandemic response flexibilities expire, the last thing anyone would want is for a patient to walk into a pharmacy and not be able to get the care they need. from her pharmacist, like a COVID-19 test,” she says. “That precedent has already been set, and that’s part of our messaging as well. You can’t just turn off the lights.

For her part, Shannon is optimistic about the potential adoption of HR 7213 and looks forward to how its enactment will improve pharmacy practice for the better.

“There are a lot of things that were ‘so’ a few years ago that have become ‘now’, our new reality,” she explained. “Not so long ago, pharmacists couldn’t vaccinate; not so long ago no one knew what a PBM was.

“I always worry about what would happen [to the people we take care of] if we weren’t there,” she added, “but I know we will be there because there are so many people advocating on our behalf, while some of us are struggling to say what we need or communicate what we do. We must all work to share our voice and our story, and not be afraid.

To learn more about AmerisourceBergen’s commitment to championing the interests of independent pharmacies across the United States, visit Our Independent Voice.

References

  1. AmerisourceBergen welcomes the introduction of S. 1909 & HR 3554, the Pharmacy DIR Reform Act to Reduce Senior Drug Costs, in Congress. AmerisourceBergen. Published June 8, 2021. Accessed August 12, 2022. https://www.amerisourcebergen.com/newsroom/media-statements/amerisourcebergen-commends-the-introduction
  2. Top U.S. senators introduce PBM legislation requiring transparency and prohibiting deceptive practices. Our independent voice. Published May 27, 2022. Accessed August 12, 2022. https://www.ourindependentvoice.com/latest-updates/news-item/2022/05/27/key-us-senators-introduce-pbm-legislation-requiring- transparency-and-prohibition-of-misleading-practices
  3. HR 7213 – Fair Community Access to Pharmacy Services Act. 117th Congress (2021-2022). Accessed August 12, 2022. https://www.congress.gov/bill/117th-congress/house-bill/7213
  4. Media statement and quotes on the Fair Community Access to Pharmacy Services Act. AmerisourceBergen. Published March 25, 2022. Accessed August 12, 2022. https://www.amerisourcebergen.com/newsroom/media-statements/media-statement-and-quotes-on-the-introduction-of-hr-7213
  5. S.3548 – CARES Act. 116th Congress (2019-2020). Accessed August 12, 2022. https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/senate-bill/3548/text
  6. Seventh amendment to the declaration under the Public Preparedness and Emergency Preparedness Act for medical countermeasures against COVID-19. Public health emergency. Revised March 12, 2021. Accessed August 12, 2022. https://www.phe.gov/Preparedness/legal/prepact/Pages/PREP-Act-Guidance.aspx