Officials implementing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act should turn to community pharmacists to help meet the surge in patient demand for preventive care services expected to arise from health care reform, according to the National Community Pharmacists Association.


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NCPA to HHS: Pharmacists can aid in preventive health care

September 22nd, 2010

ALEXANDRIA, Va. – Officials implementing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act should turn to community pharmacists to help meet the surge in patient demand for preventive care services expected to arise from health care reform, according to the National Community Pharmacists Association.

NCPA expressed that view in comments recently submitted to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The association said Tuesday that its comments came in response to the department's proposed interim final rule, which would waive patient co-pays for certain recommended preventive services and vaccines.

The HHS requirement would apply to private, nongrandfathered group health plans and health insurance issuers offering group or individual health insurance through the health insurance exchanges scheduled to take effect in 2014, according to NCPA.

To satisfy the expected need for preventive health care services, there will be an increased demand for qualified providers — a demand that pharmacists can help meet, NCPA said. The association noted that community pharmacies already provide such preventive health care services as blood pressure and cholesterol screening, tobacco cessation and obesity-related counseling and intervention, and routine immunizations.

"NCPA believes that an initial investment in preventative care services can reap many downstream benefits, including demonstrable improvement in patient care outcomes, a reduction in hospital readmissions and ultimately savings due to lower health care costs," the association stated in the comments submitted to HHS. "Just as the practice of medicine has undergone a change in focus from treatment of disease states to preventative care, pharmacy has gone from an emphasis on medication dispensing to one of effective medication use and achieving optimal patient outcomes."

In its comments, NCPA made two specific recommendations to HHS. One was to modify the rule to allow patients to receive certain preventive services from any qualified provider — including community pharmacies — without incurring a co-payment. The other was to actively promote a more collaborative approach to health care services by encouraging health plans to enlist the services of allied health care providers, such as pharmacists, to help provide community-based preventive care services to plan enrollees.

NCPA added that 92% of Americans are located within five miles of a retail pharmacy, and appointments aren't required.

"The accessibility of the community pharmacist as well as the close tie that exists between many pharmacists and members of the community is critical, especially in rural or very urban areas in which consumers may not have sufficient access to medical care," NCPA told HHS.
 

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