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    Provider status, MTM expansion top APhA legislative initiatives

    The American Pharmacists Association is advocating for provider status, better patient access to pharmacies, support for medication therapy management (MTM), and other initiatives at the congressional level this year.

    Meanwhile, the association is advising federal officials about issues ranging from opioid abuse and Medicare payment policies to compounding regulations and drug importation.

    Members of the APhA received an update about the association’s lobbying and advocacy efforts at its annual meeting in San Diego.

    On the legislative lobbying front, the organization’s main goal is to convince members of Congress to support provider status. Under a proposal introduced this year in both houses of Congress, the Social Security Act would be revised to allow reimbursement of pharmacist services, under Medicare Part B, for patients in medically underserved areas.

    The APhA is part of a coalition supporting provider status as a crucial tool to improve patient care and reduce health costs.

    “By 2021, total healthcare spending is expected to reach $4.8 trillion,” said APhA’s senior lobbyist Michael Spira. In the United States, “nearly 70% are on at least one prescription drug, and more than 50% take two. Almost 50% of people prescribed medication for chronic conditions do not take them correctly.”

    Will the legislation succeed?

    Early signs are positive, Spira said, and support during the Senate budget process shows that “our message is resonating on the Hill and with the senators.”

    The APhA is supporting other new legislation, including a Senate bill that would expand the reimbursement for MTM of chronically ill patients under Medicare Part D.

    In terms of regulation, the APhA is focusing on changes to Medicare Part D. The process, however, is “not anywhere near as exciting as last year,” said Jillanne Schulte, JD, director of regulatory affairs for APhA.

    Meanwhile, the association is working with federal officials to make sure that pharmacists aren’t stymied by rules requiring Medicare prescribers to be enrolled in the program. “Pharmacists weren’t intended to be included,” she said, and that could create problems in California, where provider status is in the works.  Federal officials are responding and looking into the issue, she said.

    Randy Dotinga
    Randy Dotinga is a medical writer based in San Diego, Calif.

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    • Anonymous
      I read this article with the usual sense of bemusement that comes with a summary of APhA's annual convention. Another year, another list of APhA priorities that have nothing to do with the problems of the vast majority of working pharmacists. But this year it's worse. A few weeks after this article was written it was announced that the APhA Foundation had given a "Bowl of Hygeia" award to Lloyd Duplantis, a pharmacist who gained some notoriety as a leader in a movement of pharmacists to deny women access to contraceptive prescriptions. It gets worse. In a self-published book, this APhA Foundation award recipient espoused the theory that high-estrogen birth control tablets lead to an increase in the number of "effeminate men" and homosexuals. An entire chapter is then dedicated to a truly bizarre theory that involves drug tests in Haiti, the creation of the AIDS virus as a result of "errant vaccine experiments" a "unique population transfer" from Haiti to Africa that eventually led to the spread of AIDS to North America. Don't take my word for it. A quick internet search will give you all the details. The APhA Foundation was not only aware of this offensive work of pseudo-science when they gave Lloyd this award, they cited it in their press release announcement! Reading about APhA used to convince me that the organization's activities, while not relevant to my practice of pharmacy, were essentially harmless. I am now convinced, if bestowing awards to people like this is how they spend their time, that it would be better for APhA to do nothing at all.