As demand for COVID-19 testing rises, so too does the time it takes to schedule a test and get back the results. To reduce wait times for both, pharmacists around the country are asking the government to cut through the red tape and allow them to be recognized as providers of testing and immunization services.
The American Pharmacists Association recently sent a letter to Congress asking that members allow pharmacists to bill directly under Medicare Part B for testing and immunization.
“Unfortunately, without a reliable and clear avenue to pay pharmacists for their services, including patient assessment, specimen collection, performing the test, interpreting the results, and reporting the results to the patient and appropriate authorities, the public health goal of widespread and accessible testing for COVID-19, influenza and respiratory syncytial viruses in communities cannot be achieved,” the letter reads.
The federal government has taken a few steps to loosen restrictions. For example, in April the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced that some licensed pharmacists would be permitted to order and administer coronavirus tests that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had authorized. In May, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced that pharmacists could bill Medicare by temporarily enrolling as an independent clinical laboratory.
The American Pharmacists Association pointed out in its letter that access to testing is even more limited to those living in rural areas, as well as for people of color.
There are more than 360,000 pharmacists across the country who are trained to administer vaccines. In addition, they are medication experts.
“Our members are well-positioned to work collaboratively with the government to intervene and provide meaningful services to curb further outbreaks of the coronavirus and play an integral role in containment and mitigation,” the letter states.
The National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS) also has pushed for giving pharmacists a bigger role in the planning and preparation for the administration of vaccines and treatments.
“There’s a community pharmacy within five miles of 90 percent of Americans, and that has powerful implications for reaching rural populations and those suffering from disparities in healthcare. A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study found that including pharmacies in a pandemic vaccination model can help the nation vaccinate 80 percent of the population seven weeks faster,” said NACDS President and CEO Steven C. Anderson in a statement.
The Health Law Offices of Anthony C. Vitale can assist pharmacies and pharmacists navigate the complexities of the Covid-19 Public Health Crisis waivers and related scope of practice issues. Give us a call at 305-358-4500 or email email@example.com.