Pharmacies team with HHS to promote free preventive care

Partnerships provide Medicare patients with information on ACA benefits, including savings on Part D prescription drug costs


There’s evidently growing recognition at the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) of pharmacists’ role in patient care.

The Million Hearts campaign, for which pharmacists can pledge to help prevent 1 million heart attacks and strokes in 5 years, kicked off in September 2011. Partnership for Patients, which pharmacists can join to help prevent harm to patients in hospitals and decrease preventable readmissions, launched in April 2012.

Now, in its latest pharmacy-friendly move, HHS has partnered with pharmacies to inform Medicare patients about free preventive services and the closing of the Part D coverage gap under the health care reform law.

“Without question, HHS understands and appreciates what pharmacists bring to the health care system,” said APhA Senior Vice President of Government Affairs Brian Gallagher, BSPharm, JD. HHS realizes that “accessibility and the ability to manage chronic conditions through appropriate medication use are vital and that pharmacists are key to both.”

Pharmacy partners include CVS Caremark, Sam’s Club, Thrifty White, Walgreens, and Walmart. Other potential pharmacy partners can find information on the CMS website

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced the partnerships August 15 at a CVS Caremark pharmacy in Jacksonville, FL. During her stop there, Sebelius received a free blood pressure reading.

Because patients typically visit pharmacies more often than any other health care provider, Gallagher said, “this is an excellent way to get important information about free benefits to patients that need them.”

Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), free preventive services for Medicare patients include an annual wellness visit, screenings for cancers and other illnesses, and vaccinations, as described in Your Guide to Medicare’s Preventive Services

Under ACA’s Medicare Coverage Gap Discount Program, the Part D “doughnut hole” is steadily narrowing until it’s closed in 2020, as explained on page 14 of October 2010 Pharmacy Today, “Closing the Doughnut Hole in 2011 and Beyond.” Medicare patients have saved more than $3.9 billion on prescription drugs in the doughnut hole since ACA was enacted, according to CMS. Average savings per Medicare patient in the first half of 2012 was $629. 

Ever since ACA passed, APhA has been “working hard to advance the sections that are advantageous to pharmacy to benefit the patients we serve,” Gallagher said. Whether one is politically liberal or conservative, the health care reform legislation contains many pharmacy-friendly provisions that are helpful to patients.

“Take politics out of the equation and put patient care first,” Gallagher added. “Free preventive care for seniors is good for patients and good for the health care system because prevention and early diagnosis save money and improve the quality of life for patients.”