Balls Food Stores pharmacists take Capitol Hill by storm

Hill visit veterans offer advice on advocating for provider status

Five Balls Food Stores pharmacists recently visited the offices of U.S. senators and a representative from Kansas and Missouri to advocate for provider status in Washington, DC.

Nikki Schwartze, PharmD, BCACP, Start Now Program Coordinator and PGY1 (postgraduate year 1) Community Residency Coordinator; and Rachel Bishop, PharmD, PGY1 Community Pharmacy Resident, met with staff for Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO).

Amanda Applegate, PharmD, BCACP, Pharmacy Clinical Services Coordinator; Haley Palmer, PharmD, PGY1 Community Pharmacy Resident; and Katelyn Steele, PharmD, PGY1 Community Pharmacy Resident, met with staff for Rep. Kevin Yoder (R-KS), Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS), and Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS).

On the Missouri side, Schwartze and Bishop discussed H.R. 4190 with Blunt’s staff in hopes that Blunt would be more familiar with the topic when a sister bill is introduced in the Senate by the Patient Access to Pharmacists’ Care Coalition, of which APhA is a member. They also shared Balls Food Stores’ participation in, and interim results of, the APhA Foundation’s Project IMPACT: Diabetes “to more personally convey how pharmacists as providers can impact patient health and the health care system,” Schwartze told

On the Kansas side, “as many of the rural areas of Kansas would be impacted by H.R. 4190,” Applegate, Palmer, and Steele advocated for H.R. 4190 “first and foremost,” Applegate told Their presentation said that “as dispensing fees continue to decline, many independent pharmacists in that area of the state will have a tougher time making a go of their small business, and that this legislation would help not only decrease overall health care spend in the long run but would help these businesspeople develop new streams of revenue and continue to serve their communities in a meaningful way.”

H.R. 4190 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. On March 11, 2014, the legislation was introduced in the House of Representatives by Rep. Brett Guthrie (R-KY), G.K. Butterfield (D-NC), and Todd Young (R-IN). As of August 1, 2014, H.R. 4190 has gained 94 cosponsors.

Schwartze and Applegate offered general advice to other pharmacists and student pharmacists on advocating for provider status to their Members of Congress and their staff.

“Be prepared to advocate in any location and in a short amount of time,” Schwartze said. “I’ve had visits in private offices, the waiting area, and in the hallways. Some visits may last 10 minutes; others, 30 minutes. Be prepared to discuss your issues globally, but be sure to share your personal story with them.”

“Brush up a little before you go,” Applegate said, “on the process of how legislation is passed and the vocabulary of Congress. Knowing this will make the process much easier for all involved. Additionally, if you can summarize your purpose for the visit in a short spiel at the beginning of this visit, it helps get the discussion started down the right path.”

Schwartze pointed out that following a meeting with a congressional staffer, the staffer will report on the meeting with higher-ups—“so it is important to leave behind written material on topics for which you are advocating. This will assist them in the details of their report, and cover anything you may not have discussed during the short meeting but still wanted them to know.”

Added Schwartze, “Always be sure to thank the member of staff after the meeting. This is also a great opportunity to follow up if there were any questions you did not have specific information on at the time of the meeting.”

Finally, Schwartze noted that pharmacists and student pharmacists don’t have to make a trip to Capitol Hill to advocate. She advised reaching out to national and state legislators at their local offices; communicating and forming relationships with their legislators’ local health care liaisons; and inviting “them to visit your pharmacy personally.”