Currently, Medicare beneficiaries living in these communities. Pharmacists

Currently, there are a large number of Americans that lack
proper access to primary health care due to a shortage of primary care
physicians.  Since the Medicaid expansion
under the Affordable Care Act more Americans are eligible to receive healthcare
benefits and Medicare recipients are expected to grow from 50 million to over
80 million over the next two decades. 
With the massive influx of patients into the healthcare system, having
low numbers of physicians makes it more challenging to provide adequate access
to underserved areas.  Rates of Americans
with chronic conditions continue to rise, which further demonstrates the need
to increase access to healthcare. Pharmacists play a significant role in
addressing this shortage since they are easily accessible health care
professionals.  They can collaborate with
other healthcare providers and offer a variety of healthcare services. In January 2015, the Pharmacy and Medically Underserved
Areas Enhancement Act was presented to both chambers of Congress and quickly
moved to several House and Senate committees for consideration.  It has bipartisan support from about 296
members of Congress. The legislation would improve access to healthcare
services in medically-underserved communities by amending the section
1861(s)(2) of the Social Security Act to include pharmacists on the list of
recognized healthcare providers allowing pharmacists to offer a variety of
patient care services based on their credentials.  Medically underserved communities include
Medically Underserved Areas (MUAs), Medically Underserved Populations (MUPs),
and Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSAs) as designated by the U.S.
Department of Health and Human Services’ Health Resources and Services
Administration (HRSA).  This bill
addresses the issue of provider shortages and access issues for Medicare
beneficiaries living in these communities. Pharmacists must obtain providers status to improve patient
health care access and health outcomes. As recognized healthcare providers,
pharmacists can participate in Part B of the Medicare program and bill Medicare
Part B for the services permitted by their states’ scope of practice. Medicare
reimbursement for pharmacists would be the same as non-physician practitioners,
set at about 85 percent of a physician’s fee schedule. Defining pharmacists as
providers on a national level would support efforts to increase healthcare
access by simplifying billing. 

Pharmacists continue their commitment to assisting patients
with access and information related to their prescription medications.  Also, pharmacists are providing a broad
spectrum of services, within their scope of practice.  These services include health screening,
chronic diseases management, medication management, administering
immunizations, and partnering with hospitals and health systems in efforts to
reduce hospital readmissions.

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