Community Pharmacist Briefs Capitol Hill on Medication Therapy Management, Pharmacist Provider Status

By Kevin Schweers

Atlanta-area independent community pharmacist Jonathan Marquess, PharmD, CDE, CPT briefed Congressional staffers June 6 regarding how medication therapy management (MTM) and other pharmacist services can help patients achieve better outcomes while reducing overall health care costs.

The briefing was organized by the Congressional Community Pharmacy Caucus, which was originally established in 2007 by House lawmakers, with the involvement and support of NCPA. It has been re-established in each subsequent Congressional session and its current co-chairs are Reps. Austin Scott (R-Ga.) and Peter Welch (D-Vt.).

Rep. Scott addressed the meeting and alluded to the bipartisan interest that has drawn 25 diverse U.S. Representatives to join the caucus.

“We share a lot of common goals and sometimes have different ideas to get there,” he said. “We agree on the importance of individual health care providers to patient care.”

“I worry a lot about our small business providers,” he added. “I always use a community pharmacy and I worry about their ability to compete.”

Specifically, Scott cited the impact of federal agencies and regulations. He recalled a durable medical equipment (DME) provider in his rural, South Georgia district that was recently forced into bankruptcy following an audit recouping tens of thousands of dollars over minor clerical discrepancies.

“We believe that the best patient care comes from the person who actually cares for the patient,” Scott concluded.

Among the speakers was independent community pharmacist Jonathan Marquess. He is an active member of the National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA) and serves on NCPA’s Professional and Practice Affairs Committee. In addition, he serves on the American Pharmacists Association Board of Trustees and Board of Directors of the Georgia Pharmacy Association, where he is also a Past President.

Pharmacists should be recognized for the value they bring to health care and pharmacist-provided services like MTM, Marquess argued. He lauded the joint work of APhA, NCPA and many other pharmacy organizations in pursuit of official recognition of pharmacists as health care providers. Guiding those efforts are principles such as better care for patients, better health for our communities and lower costs.

In Georgia, Marquess cited the lack of recognition of pharmacists as providers as a roadblock to involvement with new care delivery models, such as accountable care organizations (ACOs). In addition to owning and operating six Health Mart pharmacies in the Atlanta area along with his wife Pam, Marquess actively helps counsel patients and employers on combatting diabetes. One large Georgia employer saw fit to better utilize pharmacists in helping its patients with diabetes and they cut their diabetes care costs in half, he noted.

“I’m excited about the opportunity for pharmacists today,” Marquess concluded. “Data shows that when pharmacists get involved to talk with patients about their medication, everybody wins.”

As a good first step toward that end, NCPA supports H.R. 1024. Introduced by Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) and Ron Kind (D-Wisc.), the bill would deem any Medicare beneficiary with a chronic condition as eligible for MTM services. (Currently, in order to qualify beneficiaries must meet all three criteria of: multiple chronic conditions, multiple Medicare Part D medications and incurring $3,144 in annual drug costs.) The legislation has 57 cosponsors to date and is written in a way to avoid imposing any new costs to the federal government.

Across Capitol Hill, the Senate Community Pharmacy Caucus was also re-established in the 113th Congress earlier this year. In 2011, NCPA was instrumental in the establishment of the Senate caucus.

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