Op-Ed: Why Pharmacist Provider Status is Critical to be Approved

School of Pharmacy Building
Aerial views of the School of Pharmacy, courtyard on Oct. 15, 2019. (Sean Flynn/UConn Photo)

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to rage here in the U.S. it is imperative to institute the use of pharmacists specifically in the ordering and administering COVID-19 tests. The #1 reason why we should support the bill that is now standing before congress is:

The rate at which COVID-19 testing could occur and results reported would improve the speed at which the health care system can respond to and control the coronavirus.

Pharmacists are one of the most trusted medical professionals in the country, according to the most recent Gallup polls; they are highly educated and trained, licensed professionals. Pharmacists are very accessible and are embedded in almost every U.S. community offering citizens easy access to professional health care. Pharmacists have been administering flu and other immunizations for several years now and with added personal protective equipment (PPE) they can further assist in testing, vaccinating (when available), educating patients and ultimately helping in controlling the pandemic while adhering to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention testing criteria. Pharmacists are an essential part of the medical team, which includes physicians, nurses, respiratory therapists, and EMTs just to name a few.

Now is the time to remove the barriers preventing more pharmacies and pharmacists from launching COVID-19 testing services that are crucial for patients, public health, communities, and the economy. Congress needs to recognize pharmacists as healthcare providers under Medicare for services related to COVID-19, flu, and other respiratory viruses.  Pharmacists are in a unique position to quickly deploy COVID-19 treatments and vaccines efficiently and effectively.

Pharmacies and pharmacists want to help America better confront the pandemic, the most severe public health threat of our generation, but when it comes to ramping up testing services, they cannot do more given the current barriers. Provider status is a crucial solution, and Congress needs to act on it now, before leaving town.

I call upon our physician partners and colleagues to advocate and support the inclusion of pharmacists in a relief bill that is before Congress right now. This relief bill recognizes pharmacists as health care providers and would allow pharmacists to work more closely and in partnership with physicians in providing the needed critical services to our citizens in their communities. There is currently no clear pathway that exists for pharmacists to bill for the product and services that they can provide. Recognizing pharmacists as health care providers in this relief bill would create a reimbursement pathway in Medicare that will further inspire coverage across other programs and private insurance.

Stopping COVID-19 should be all of our highest priority right now. Please join me in support of pharmacist involvement by visiting the APhA’s Action Center.