It’s time to seize a historic opportunity for the future of pharmacy
Armed with undeniable evidence that community pharmacies play a vital role in healthcare, pharmacists and other advocates are ready to push the case for provider status and payment change at the federal and state levels.
The U.S. public health system wasn’t equipped to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, but when the government expanded pharmacists’ authority to test and immunize, pharmacists answered the call and filled critical care gaps.
“The pandemic shined a light on many of the problems and systemic inequities plaguing our healthcare system, but it’s also showed our political leaders what we’ve known all along – that pharmacists are a critical part of the patient care team,” said Pete Slone, McKesson’s senior vice president for government affairs. “That they have knowledge, expertise, and – most importantly – the trust of patients that’s necessary to improve access and outcomes in our healthcare system.”
Doug Hoey, CEO of the National Community Pharmacists Association, noted that pharmacists and technicians have delivered more than 100 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines. He also lauded pharmacists’ creative responses to the crisis, such as compounding hand sanitizer when supplies were low.
The pandemic has also paved the way for pharmacies to be recognized and paid for services beyond dispensing medications.
“We have proved why we’re one of the most respected professions in the country,” said Nimesh Jhaveri, McKesson’s president of community pharmacy and healths.
Goal line push
“Now is the time for Congress to make permanent those services permitted under the pandemic Public Health Emergency Declaration to properly recognize the diagnostic and clinic services that pharmacy can provide by practicing at the top of your licensure, and importantly, the reimbursement to make it a sustainable business model,” Slone said. “Your partners at McKesson and Health Mart are doubling down to lead the change.”
The companies are bringing together a new coalition including pharmacy associations, the big chains and patient care advocates to unite to pass legislation.
The goal: ensure patient access to vital services from pharmacies with direct reimbursement under Medicare Part B for this and future pandemics, as well as chronic conditions such as hypertension, cardiovascular disease and diabetes, “just for starters,” Slone said.
“It’s critical that you make your voices heard so we can take full advantage of our newfound recognition and the high regard for pharmacy and punch this legislation over the goal line once and for all,” Slone said.
Nowhere is that more crucial than on DIR fees, which increased 91,500% between 2010 and 2019, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Clawbacks threaten the viability of community pharmacy, and Slone encouraged pharmacy owners to tell their legislators how DIR fees impact not only their business, but also patient access in underserved communities.
Clarion call for pharmacies
“The most compelling narratives — bar none — are the personal stories that resonate with elected officials,” Slone said, “the faces that stick with them when they vote. You are the most powerful asset we have when it comes to legislative advocacy, and we need you now more than ever.”
Pharmacists need to tell policymakers about their stores, patients, employees and commitment to the communities they serve. Invite elected officials to tour your pharmacy, ask these officials pointed questions at town hall meetings, follow them on social media, call and email.
“This is the clarion call to all of pharmacy,” Slone said. “We simply can’t win these fights without you.”
During the public policy session, Lt. Commander Nelly Gazarian of the U.S. Public Health Service recognized community pharmacies as “the backbone of America” and acknowledged the critical role that community pharmacies can play in ending the HIV epidemic.
Other highlights from McKesson ideaShare on Wednesday, September 15 were:
- Advice on how to advocate effectively, which includes by customizing messages and partnering with others (CE on Advocacy)
- Resources to prepare for a variety of emergency situations, from pandemics to weather disasters (CE on Preparedness)
- Precautions to prevent diversion of controlled substances, protecting them from internal and external threats (Pharma Talk on Safety)
- Counseling on billing for services, including payment of up to $750 for delivering monoclonal antibodies. (Pharma Talk on Billing)
- Explanation of contractual effective rates, including a formula for calculating your GER (Pharma Talk on Contract Rates)
- Simple steps for social media marketing (CE on Marketing)
It’s not too late to watch these sessions
The ideaShare General Sessions and Pharma Talks are available on demand to all registrants by registering for the show at McKesson ideaShare 2021.
Tune in on Thursday, September 16, to find out who will be the Pharmacy of the Year, along with sessions and CEs on 340B opportunities, ways to advance the role of pharmacy technicians and how to better understand your P&L.