Provider status, government affairs overviews presented at APhA2015

APhA staff presents on wide range of legislative, regulatory topics

It’s no secret that achieving provider status is the number one priority for APhA. Based on audience polling questions during Friday’s session on provider status during APhA2015 in San Diego, it appeared that achieving provider status was important to most pharmacists as well.

Stacie Maass, BSPharm, JD, APhA Senior Vice President of Pharmacy Practice and Government Affairs, gave a comprehensive overview of provider status and the progress that is being made in several different ways.

APhA is part of a broad coalition, called the Patient Access to Pharmacists’ Care Coalition (PAPCC), made up of pharmacy organizations and stakeholders united in promoting patient access and coverage to pharmacists’ patient care services.

“I’ve never seen pharmacy so united on an issue,” said Maass.

PAPCC has been gathering pharmacists’ stories on the ways they provide patient care services —and that effort continued at APhA2015. Pharmacists could share their stories at APhA’s Pharmacists Provide Care booth as well as learn more about ways to get involved at APhA’s advocacy action booth on the Exposition floor at the Annual Meeting.

During APhA2015, more than 1,100 supporters joined APhA’s Pharmacists Provide Care campaign; and 670 advocates sent 2,010 e-mails to legislators.

Any way that patients have a greater opportunity to access pharmacists’ patient care services is a provider status success, according to Maass.

“Provider status is not just one pathway. It’s not just at one level of government,” said Maass. “There are many ways we can work  to improve patient care and outcomes and the opportunities for pharmacists.”

At the end of January, federal legislation was introduced—first in the House and then in the Senate. H.R. 592 and its companion bill, S. 314, would give patients access to, and coverage of, Medicare Part B services by pharmacists in medically underserved communities. As of March 27, there were 84 sponsors and cosponsors in the House, and 11 senators have signed onto the bill.

“In 2 months to have that much support is really a big win,” said Maass.

Maass said the bills include the same language as last year’s bill, H.R. 4190, which garnered 123 House cosponsors. Feedback from staff on Capitol Hill about the bills has mainly focused on the cost of the legislation.

While congressional staff are aware of  some of the valuable services pharmacists provide, Maass said more work needs to be done to inform them of the broad range of services pharmacists are educated and trained to provide and the benefit these services provide to patients.

On the state level, provider status is playing out. For instance, 37 states have some provider designation for pharmacists, although payment has been slow to catch up. In addition, Maass said the National Alliance of State Pharmacy Associations has reported that at least 70 bills—compared with 26 bills last year—have been introduced this year addressing some aspect of patient access to pharmacists’ services.

Provider status was one of many topics discussed Sunday at the Legislative and Regulatory Update session, presented by Michael Spira, APhA Senior Lobbyist; Jillanne Schulte, JD, APhA Director of Regulatory Affairs; and Michael H. Ghobrial, PharmD, JD, APhA Associate Director of Health Policy. Other topics on the legislative side included an overview of Congress and legislation on the sustainable growth rate, 21st Century Cures, preferred pharmacy networks, infusion therapy, and medication therapy management.

Topics on the regulatory side included health care reform; CMS activity; FDA activity on biosimilars, drug importation, compounding, track and trace, pregnancy and lactation labeling, marijuana, and electronic package inserts; and DEA activity on prescription drug abuse.