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Trump nominee for HHS supports pharmacists’ role in patient care

Price: ‘Paying pharmacists in underserved areas to engage in certain medical services could work well’

As part of the Senate’s confirmation process for President Donald J. Trump’s nominee for Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS), Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) supported pharmacist provider status in his written response to the Senate Finance Committee’s “Questions for the record from Ranking Member Ron Wyden.”

On pages 80 and 81 of the 136-page document, the following exchange occurred:

Question (on behalf of Senators Bennet, Casey, and Brown): The Pharmacy and Medically Underserved Areas Enhancement Act recognizes pharmacists as health care providers in underserved areas in order to expand access to care. In areas with a shortage of primary care providers, pharmacists may play a key role in helping patients manage their diseases to avoid Emergency Department visits and hospitalizations. These services are especially important for patients with multiple chronic conditions who may be taking several medications at a time. As HHS Secretary, would you support this approach as a way to increase care in rural and underserved areas?

Answer: We ought to step back and say “What are we doing wrong?” as one of out every eight physicians no longer sees Medicare patients. Therefore, if confirmed as Secretary, I would be open to all options to address the impact of the ongoing physician shortage in rural areas. Paying pharmacists in underserved areas to engage in certain medical services could work well in those states where pharmacists have such licensure and a setting appropriate to the services, where primary care doctors continue to be involved in care, and where there is a patient and consumer demand for such services.

Recently reintroduced in Congress, the Pharmacy and Medically Underserved Areas Enhancement Act (S. 109/H.R. 592) provides Medicare Part B beneficiaries in medically underserved communities access to pharmacist-provided care.

Senators raised pharmacy issues of importance in their questions to Price, including restricted pharmacy networks, DIR (direct and indirect renumeration) fees, radiopharmaceuticals, and drug pricing. The Finance Committee was scheduled to vote to advance Price’s nomination this morning, according to Politico Pro.

“We couldn’t be more pleased that the Senate and Congressman Price, like our nation’s 300,000 pharmacists and the patients they serve, recognize the value pharmacists bring to our health care system and the importance of the care they provide,” APhA Executive Vice President and CEO Thomas E. Menighan, BSPharm, MBA, ScD (Hon), FAPhA, said in a statement.

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