H.R. 1770 Would Provide Payment for Pharmacist Services for COVID-19, Flu, Strep & RSV Under Medicare Part B and Ensure Pharmacists Can Continue to Protect Vulnerable Senior Communities
WASHINGTON, D.C., March 24, 2023 – Congressman Adrian Smith (R-NE), Congressman Brad Schneider (D-IL), Congressman Larry Bucshon (R-IN), Congresswoman Doris Matsui (D-CA), and pharmacist Members Earl L. “Buddy” Carter (R-GA) and Diana Harshbarger (R-TN), this week introduced H.R. 1770, the Equitable Community Access to Pharmacist Services Act, bipartisan legislation that would ensure Medicare beneficiaries can receive essential services from pharmacists for COVID-19, influenza (flu), respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), and strep throat. H.R. 1770 would recognize pharmacists and the role they have in improving health care access by establishing Medicare Part B direct reimbursement for certain pharmacist services. More than 190 organizations, including rural and senior advocacy groups, physician and provider groups, patient advocacy organizations, pharmacists, health systems, and many others support the legislation.
H.R. 1770 would ensure patient access to essential pharmacist services for seniors and rural populations, including:
- TESTING: COVID-19, Influenza, Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV), and Strep Throat
- TREATMENT: COVID-19, Influenza, and Strep Throat
- VACCINATIONS: COVID-19 and Influenza
“We commend bipartisan lawmakers for introducing federal legislation to protect the role pharmacists play to deliver essential care and services to America’s seniors,” said Paul W. Abramowitz, CEO at the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP), and Ilisa Bernstein, Interim CEO at the American Pharmacists Association (APhA). “Pharmacists in all settings, including rural communities, hospitals, clinics, and health centers, are on the frontlines and have supported Americans through the worst health emergency in a generation. H.R. 1770 would empower older Americans, who are at higher risk of contracting infectious diseases and needing hospitalization, to continue to rely on services provided by pharmacist in their local communities. While Americans with private insurance, Medicaid beneficiaries, and federal employees may be covered, America’s seniors will be left behind if Congress doesn’t act to ensure access to essential pharmacist services in Medicare.”
Time and again, pharmacists stepped up to provide first-line care, respond to a rapidly changing public health environment, and protect vulnerable communities from COVID-19 – including seniors and rural Americans.
- Nearly All Americans Have Immediate Access to Pharmacist Care. Today, 9 in 10 Americans live within 5 miles of a pharmacy.
- Pharmacists Have Played A Vital Role To Strengthen Our Nation’s Public Health. Pharmacists in the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program alone have administered more than 301 million COVID-19 vaccine doses. Pharmacists gave 47 million flu shots (58% of the total) in the 2020-21 flu season.
- Pharmacists are the First Line of Defense for Rural America. Amid persistent health care capacity challenges, rural patients rely on pharmacists to manage their health. Pharmacists have delivered many of the 25 million COVID-19 vaccines received by rural Americans.
The Future of Pharmacy Care Coalition, a group representing pharmacists and community pharmacies of all sizes serving millions of patients daily across the U.S., supports H.R. 1770. Coalition members supporting the legislation include the American Pharmacists Association (APhA), American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP), Abbott, AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health, CVS Health, Good Neighbor Pharmacy, Health Mart, Kroger, McKesson, Medicine Shoppe, the National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS), Walgreens, and Walmart.
The full text of H.R. 1770 can be found here.
What They’re Saying: Equitable Community Access to Pharmacist Services Act (H.R. 1770)
- “While I applaud the end of the Public Health Emergency, we must evaluate what policy changes made a positive impact on patient care,” said Rep. Smith. “Pharmacists are already trusted partners in seniors’ care, which is why we should allow Medicare to permanently reimburse for pharmacist-administered testing, vaccinating, and delivering of medications for common respiratory illnesses. This bill would expand seniors’ options for care while respecting existing state law, and I thank my colleagues for partnering with me on this important legislation.”
- “During the pandemic, pharmacists demonstrated their immeasurable value providing care to communities big and small,” said Rep. Schneider. “We need to build on these lessons and ensure pharmacists are able to continue providing care and receiving reimbursement for services related to COVID-19, influenza, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), and strep throat. I’m proud to be working on this important initiative with my Republican colleague on the Ways and Means Committee, Congressman Adrian Smith.”
- “Seniors in Indiana’s 8th Congressional District and in communities across the country have come to rely on the critical care and services that pharmacists provide,” said Dr. Bucshon. “The Equitable Community Access to Pharmacist Services Act will help ensure that Hoosier pharmacists have the ability to continue to provide the care that they are already licensed to provide and that their communities need, and I am proud to help give them that support.”
- “Over the course of the pandemic, the immense strain on our health care system exacerbated existing inequalities in care,” said Congresswoman Matsui. “In my district and across the country, pharmacists stepped up to meet the challenge, playing an essential role in meeting people where they are at and getting care and services to underserved communities. The Equitable Community Access to Pharmacist Services Act would ensure that Medicare patients can continue to access these critical services well into the future.”
- “Pharmacists are among the most trusted and accessible health care professionals in the country,” said Rep. Carter. “This important, bipartisan legislation will preserve that relationship by ensuring coverage at the pharmacy counter for Medicare patients battling COVID-19, the flu, and other respiratory diseases.”
- “I am honored to join my colleagues in introducing legislation that will provide millions of Americans with accessible healthcare,” said Congresswoman Harshbarger. “As a pharmacist, I understand the critical front-line role that our nation’s pharmacies play in providing healthcare to those living in senior, rural, and medically underserved communities across the country. Under the Equitable Community Access to Pharmacist Services Act, local pharmacies across Tennessee will continue to be a go-to, trusted source of quality care and support for their patients.”
- “Congress must act with urgency to codify the front-line role pharmacists play to deliver essential care and services to America’s seniors to protect vulnerable patient communities, strengthen our nation’s public health response, and better prepare for future infectious disease threats”, wrote 48 groups in separate letters to the Biden Administration and congressional leaders. “Without immediate action, seniors will experience difficulty obtaining pharmacist services upon which they have come to rely during the pandemic, endangering the health and well-being of the most vulnerable individuals in our health care system.”
- “H.R. 1770 will ensure the continued ability of pharmacies and pharmacists to be a reliable lifeline to America’s communities,” wrote 105 groups representing America’s pharmacists and pharmacies in a letter to congressional leaders. “While short-term, emergency federal authority has allowed pharmacists to provide much-needed services, these services are set to expire and lack a sustainable reimbursement mechanism which undermines the long-term ability of patients to access pharmacist-provided health care services in their communities.”
- “Congress must move quickly to pass H.R. 1770 to ensure pharmacists are reimbursed for critical care and services under Medicare Part B,” wrote 31 health systems in a letter to congressional leaders. “In doing so, Congress will ensure Medicare beneficiaries can continue to receive treatment from pharmacists for pandemic-related health conditions and allow pharmacists to respond to ongoing and future public health threats to our nation. Medicare beneficiaries living in rural, socially vulnerable, and underserved areas will be especially benefited by this federal policy to reduce the existing gap in access to care.”
About the Future of Pharmacy Care Coalition
The Future of Pharmacy Care Coalition comprises American healthcare companies and professional associations that together provide care for hundreds of millions of patients and represent pharmacists and community pharmacies of all sizes across the U.S.