Proposed bill would pay pharmacists to provide care in underserved areas

The bill would have Medicare paying pharmacists for providing basic care.

A proposed bill would see pharmacist receiving payment from Medicare for providing basic care to patients in underserved areas.

The Pharmacy and Medically Underserved Areas Enhancement Act was introduced April 22 by Rep. G. K. Butterfield (D-NC) and Rep. David B. McKinley (R-WV) and has been referred to the Energy and Commerce Committee and Ways and Means Committee. In addition to Butterfield and McKinley, the bill is cosponsored by 22 other representatives on both sides of the aisle.

The bill aims to expand access to care in underserved areas by paying physicians for performing basic care like immunizations, diabetes management, blood pressure screenings, and routine checks on Medicare patients.

In a statement, Butterfield says that Medicare currently not paying for these services is creating a burden on patients in underserved areas who must travel to visit their primary care physician.

“In rural and underserved areas like those that I represent, access to a primary care doctor can be challenging and pharmacists often step in and serve as accessible access points for care,” Butterfield says.“Pharmacists can provide wellness testing, help manage chronic disease, and administer immunizations.The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted how accessible pharmacists are and how they can be leveraged to improve the health of communities.Pharmacists in eastern North Carolina are helping people to live longer, healthier, and more fulfilling lives.But providing those services doesn’t come without a cost.I am proud to join my colleagues on this bipartisan measure that will ensure our pharmacists are appropriately reimbursed and can continue to provide care to those in need.”

Pharmacy Times spoke to Scott J. Knoer, the EVP and CEO of the American Pharmacists Association, about the proposed bill and what sort of difficulties it faces in passing.