Rx to Medicare: Treat us like professionals

Saturday, February 28, 2009

WASHINGTON--Requiring community pharmacists to get accredited is redundant and unfair, say the sponsors of a bill introduced into the House of Representatives Jan. 21.

Reps. Marion Berry, D-Ark., and Jerry Moran, R-Kan., introduced H.R. 616 to exempt pharmacists from having to become accredited to bill Medicare Part B.

“We want retail pharmacy, especially the independents, to be treated the same as other trained healthcare professionals,” said Berry during a conference call hosted by the National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA) Jan. 22.

The Medicare Modernization Act of 2003 requires DMEPOS providers to become accredited. In September 2008, CMS exempted several medical professionals, including physicians, nurse practitioners, speech pathologists, social workers and dieticians from the requirement.

Pharmacists, however, were not on the list.

“We’re puzzled as to why pharmacists have been singled out when about 17 other professionals have been exempted,” said Mark Riley, executive director of the Arkansas Pharmacists Association. “The (current) regulations will cause pharmacists to jump through multiple, cost-prohibitive hoops just to be able to (care) for their patients as they already do.”

For smaller independent

pharmacies that do only limited amounts of DME or diabetic testing supplies, the time and expense of accreditation simply isn’t worth it, they say. That could lead to access problems, especially in rural areas, said Berry.

“Pharmacists are in many cases the only trained healthcare professional there is in a community,” he said. “They are the front line of health care. It’s difficult when the local pharmacy doesn’t have the ability to provide diabetes supplies and DME.”

CMS has said providers need to get their accreditation applications in by Jan. 31 to ensure they will have time to get accredited by the Sept. 30 deadline. The NCPA recommends that pharmacies continue to submit their applications.

“We are encouraging folks to meet the application deadline,” said Bruce Roberts, executive vice president and CEO of NCPA. “We don’t want folks to miss the (deadline) because then we really will lose access. We will do everything we can to get this turned around quickly.”