In the little towns where I work, the kindly pharmacist will offer the occasional advice to little old ladies or teenage mothers about this rash or that blood pressure, all of it innocuous enough and never overstepping their bounds. Now, intent pharmacist lobbyists have gotten a bi-partisan cabal of congressmen to enlarge and expand this once informal, over-the-counter relationship.
The Pharmacy and Medically Underserved Areas Enhancement Act (H.R. 592/ S. 314) is bipartisan legislation that will amend section 1861 (s) (2) of the Social Security Act to include pharmacists on the list of recognized healthcare providers (It was co-sponsored in the Senate by Sherrod Brown (D) and Chuck Grassley (R). If those two agree on an idea, it is very probably a bad one). According to the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists: “The legislation would help meet unmet health care needs in underserved areas, a significant first step toward broader provider status. This strategy follows a similar successful path taken by other health care professionals to gain recognition under Medicare. Nurse practitioners initially received the ability to provide services in rural health clinics. Later they were granted provider status in any setting.” Ho, ho, yes they were.
According to Cesar Munoz, president of the Lake Houston Pharmacy Assoc., “These companion bills would simply permit licensed pharmacists to be classified as “non-physician health care providers” under Medicare Part B.” The broader scope Munoz celebrates would include:
- Checking blood pressure and glucose levels.
- Giving vaccines.
- Tracking and reporting these activities to the patient’s primary care physician, “allowing the physician’s office to track their patients’ progress without the need to see them in a doctor’s office.”
Isn’t that wonderful? Not only can the busy patient avoid that pesky office visit (less expensive!) and the office wait (less time!), but mark my words, the doctor or other provider of equal distinction will still be held legally liable for whatever data the pharmacy collects and claims to transmit to the office (and any HIPAA violation charges will be an added bonus). Medicare will love this new opportunity to not pay physicians. Politicians will have renewed support from a brand new class of “providers.” Malpractice lawyers will love the chance to sue the doctor and big-pockets pharmacy chain simultaneously. And the importance of an actual physician can be further diminished in the eyes of patients, a development sure to gladden the ranks of NP’s and PA’s who we can be sure will welcome these new providers with open arms. Less Expensive…Less Time. Hmm, sounds familiar…Tweet