House pharmacy caucus hosts provider status briefing

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Advocating for H.R. 4190, speakers represent APhA, NCPA, NACDS at Capitol Hill event

With assistance from APhA and other pharmacy groups, the House Community Pharmacy Caucus hosted a provider status briefing in the Capitol building in Washington, DC, on September 24. Attended by approximately 40 congressional staffers and pharmacy association representatives, the event focused on H.R. 4190.

The caucus’s Co-Chairs are Reps. Austin Scott (R-GA) and Peter Welch (D-VT). The three panelists—representing the National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA), APhA, and the National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS)—respectively said that H.R. 4190 is a solution, that interprofessional education is preparing student pharmacists for team care, and that provider status would enable pharmacists’ services to reach more patients who need their help.

H.R. 4190 is a bipartisan bill that would amend Title XVIII of the Social Security Act to enable patient access to, and coverage for, Medicare Part B services by state-licensed pharmacists in medically underserved communities. Currently, 116 Members of Congress have officially decided to cosponsor H.R. 4190.

For NCPA, Michael Tomberlin, NCPA Vice President of Government Affairs, explained the need for H.R. 4190. Citing the physician shortage and the diabetes epidemic, Tomberlin said that community pharmacists provide face-to-face counseling services and that these services should be expanded. He described H.R. 4190’s 116 cosponsors, the upcoming elections followed by the lame duck session, and the intention of seeking introduction of a Senate bill in the first half of next year. H.R. 4190 is “a serious solution to the health care problem that faces the United States,” Tomberlin said.

For APhA, Magaly Rodriguez de Bittner, PharmD, BCPS, FAPhA, University of Maryland School of Pharmacy Professor and Chair, spoke on “Pharmacy 101—Education” and specifically about pharmacist education, licensure, continuing education, and H.R. 4190.

Explaining that student pharmacists interact with medical students and nursing students, Rodriguez de Bittner noted a growing emphasis on interprofessional education. “There are opportunities for students to learn how to work in a team,” she said. But “one of the frustrations I have as a professor [is that] many opportunities that exist in practice don’t match the training,” meaning many pharmacists “don’t have the opportunity to be on a team.” The improved clinical and economic outcomes of the Maryland P3 Program, she said, are “something that we’re going to see once we start to provide the access and care, and people are better able to manage their medications.”

H.R. 4190, Rodriguez de Bittner added, would allow patients to access care, particularly in underserved communities.

For NACDS, Charley John, PharmD, Pharmacy Supervisor for Walgreens in Washington, DC, said, “I’m very proud to be a pharmacist.” In front of a slide with health care statistics, he said, “How are we going to take care of these people? Well, I think I can help.” Noting that a pharmacist’s role is way beyond just dispensing,” he said that pharmacists today are providing a “broad spectrum of services” within state scope of practice laws—but that federal law limits pharmacists’ ability to practice at the top of their education and training.

“Provider status is what’s going to allow us to do all these things,” John said. He asked that Members of Congress support the bill.

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