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Orlando Sentinel: Bill Mincy, Let pharmacies boost access to health care

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Too many Floridians have too little access to routine medical care. For those seniors who have limited mobility or live in rural areas, a trip to the doctor can easily turn into a major undertaking. Provider shortages can make it difficult for seniors to access the care they need, and pharmacists stand ready to fill that need.

Additionally, as seniors grow in numbers, live longer and suffer from chronic diseases, access to health care is expected to increase. In fact, by 2020 there could be a shortage of as many as 90,000 doctors nationwide, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges. Obviously these provider shortages make it more difficult for seniors to access the care they need.

Florida has almost 2,800 community pharmacies that employ more than 30,000 people with more than $1 billion in estimated payroll and $355 million in taxes generated each year. As a result of the significant role pharmacies play in our economy, it is important that the public better understand how their pharmacies stand ready to become more involved in health care.
Current federal legislation, called the Pharmacy and Medically Underserved Areas Enhancement Act, would modify Medicare to include appropriate parameters for reimbursements to pharmacists who are trained and able to deliver care to Medicare Part B beneficiaries in medically underserved communities.

This legislation would build upon a law, which already allows nurse practitioners and physician assistants to be reimbursed by Medicare, to cover services provided now by pharmacists.

For example, a patient could receive a routine screening for blood glucose levels and blood pressure. They could receive immunizations against pneumonia and shingles — just as they can for seasonal flu today. These pharmacies have medically qualified staff to assess such patients.

This law would add a cost-effective, convenient and safe option to our medical community while alleviating the risk of patients — especially elderly patients — not properly taking or renewing their prescriptions, and not being appropriately monitored for chronic diseases. This is a safe option for Florida, and we should ask our congressional members to co-sponsor this positive legislation.

Pharmacy Choice and Access Now and the Patient Access to Pharmacists’ Care Coalition have joined forces to support this legislation. It is important that we encourage safe options for medical care in our communities, and this will help push us in the right direction.

Bill Mincy is the national board chair and Florida advocate for Pharmacy Choice and Access Now.

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