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Pharmacy bills good for pharmacies, underserved patients

Pharmacy bills good for pharmacies, underserved patients

At a time when retail pharmacists are conducting diagnostic tests under collaborative practice agreements with physicians, and expanding into more lucrative services like dispensing specialty drugs, companion bills introduced in the House and Senate would further enhance the value of these professionals to their local communities while allowing them to tap a new revenue stream.

The legislation would formally designate pharmacists in underserved communities as medical providers under Medicare Part B, allowing them to receive reimbursement for services that they’re already authorized and trained to perform and are providing for patients.

The bipartisan legislation that’s designed to improve patients in underserved communities access to immunizations and services such as diabetes screenings, cardiovascular screenings and education to enhance prescription adherence — depending on the state in which the pharmacist is licensed to practice— makes sense considering that 90% of the U.S. population lives within 5 miles of a pharmacy and according to the Association of American Medical Colleges, the U.S. will have 91,000 fewer physicians than what will be needed to meet anticipated demand by 2020.

If passed, pharmacists would be reimbursed for caring for Medicare recipients in certain rural populations; areas with high rates of poverty and a shortage of primary care providers; those with HIV; and public housing residents. This system would not only serve to improve patient outcomes through early interventions, but help contain healthcare costs by preventing expensive trips to the emergency room.

The new revenue stream will also help keep pharmacies afloat in food deserts and other underserved communities, noted Kevin Schweers, spokesman for the National Community Pharmacist Association. “Now more than ever for continued patient access to prescription drugs in underserved rural and urban areas, it is important that community pharmacies diversify their sources of revenue,” he said.


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Supermarket pharmacies are a particularly convenient destination for the patients who’d stand to benefit from passage of this legislation, especially those who are not able to drive but take advantage of shuttle services provided by their community to their local grocery store.

The services offered at retail pharmacies co-located with food also seem particularly beneficial to patients as more dietitians work hand in hand with pharmacists to provide disease-specific store tours or customize eating plans to prevent or manage chronic disease.

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