Meet your Congressman or Senator in August

 

As we head into August recess, the time of year when Members of Congress leave Washington, D.C. and head back to their home states, provider status legislation continues to gather momentum on both sides of Capitol Hill. The Pharmacy and Medically Underserved Areas Enhancement Act (H.R. 492) has 182 Congressional co-sponsors, and the companion bill in the Senate (S. 314) has 27 co-sponsors. This is incredibly significant for the profession of pharmacy, and a direct result of so many pharmacists and student pharmacists across the nation making their voices heard to their Members of Congress. 

To put this in perspective, consider how far we have come in the last year. At the beginning of the 2014 August recess, we had sent only 1,748 letters about provider status legislation to Congress, the legislation had 94 co-sponsors in the House and the companion bill in the Senate had not yet been introduced. Now, we’ve sent more than 25,000 letters to Congress about provider status legislation resulting in even more support from policymakers.

Because Members of Congress will be spending time in the community during the August recess, now is the perfect time to schedule a meeting with your elected officials. The Pharmacists Provide Care campaign has drafted a guide to scheduling a meeting with your Member of Congress, and inviting them to visit your pharmacy. As an added resource, we have created a spreadsheet with contact information for the district offices of all 435 members of the U.S. House of Representatives.

When you meet with your member of Congress to discuss the Pharmacy and Medically Underserved Areas Enhancement Act, keep in mind the following messages: 

  • Access: Millions of Americans lack adequate access to primary health care, and this is only expected to get worse as demand increases. 78 percent of counties in the United States contain “medically underserved areas” in which there are too few primary care providers and residents experience limited access to health care. But pharmacists can help close the health care gap. This legislation promotes increased access to care for patients who are otherwise medically underserved.
  • Expertise: Pharmacists have the education and training necessary to provide a number of services needed by many Medicare beneficiaries, including the management of chronic diseases (e.g., diabetes, cardiovascular) and health and wellness services (e.g., glucose monitoring, cholesterol screening). And, pharmacists are one of the most accessible members of the health care team, with nearly 95% of Americans living within 5 miles of a pharmacy. The pharmacy profession is united and committed to securing patient access to health care through pharmacists’ services. 
  • Recognition: Pharmacists are one of the few health care professionals whose health care services are not recognized in federal law. Many other health care professionals’ services are rightfully covered by Medicare, including chiropractors, midwives and dieticians, but not pharmacists. This legislation allows Medicare beneficiaries to access the services pharmacists are educated and trained to provide in states; it does not expand pharmacists’ scope of practice.
  • Share Your Story: Add your own talking points to personalize the issue.  If you are a practicing pharmacist or student pharmacist, talk about the impact you are having on patients. Describe how the bill would help.  For example, you, as a pharmacist, could provide patient care services [provide specific examples] to more people if the bill passed because Medicare patients would be eligible to receive them. 

Where possible, you should try to localize the issue of patient access to pharmacists’ services. District offices are concerned about the impact of issues on the local community, rather than the national ramifications of health care policy. Whenever possible, discuss how this legislation will provide patients in the district with access to health care through pharmacists’ patient care services. If there is a particular need in your community (e.g., high diabetes rates, limited public transportation, highly rural), provide specifics of how pharmacists can help. Use the state-specific resources at PharmacistsProvideCare.com to show how many counties in your home state are medically underserved, and how pharmacists are trained and accessible providers.

We hope that these resources will help you to meet with your Member of Congress during the August recess. Your continued support of the Pharmacists Provide Care campaign is a vital part of our efforts to pass provider status legislation at the federal level, beginning with the Pharmacy and Medically Underserved Areas Enhancement Act. 

 

Provided by the American Pharmacists Association