Pharmacists – being the most accessible healthcare providers – can prove to be invaluable during the current pandemic. With the passage of the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act (PREPA), pharmacists now can order and provide COVID-testing. Many pharmacies have already started providing testing through their drive-up stations and home visits to quarantined patients.
Why is this a crucial time for pharmacists?
Because pharmacists are not recognized by the federal government as health care providers, they could not be reimbursed by Medicare or Medicaid for providing medical services. Without the PREPA, pharmacists would not have been able to offer COVID-testing. With the passage of PREPA, the federal government specifically acknowledged the role pharmacists play in public-health emergencies. See “Guidance for Licensed Pharmacists, COVID-19 Testing, and Immunity under the PREP Act.” Please note that it is still unclear how pharmacies should bill for testing.
Another constructive move was the inclusion of pharmacists in Helping Emergency Responders Overcome Emergency Situations (HEROES) Act of 2020. Initially it did not include pharmacists, which changed after various pharmacists advocacy groups stepped in.
These developments and acknowledgement of pharmacists as healthcare providers on the federal level may change the playing field in terms of pharmacy reimbursement (where pharmacies may be reimbursed for direct patients care services) and potentially could lead to a provider status.
Thank you to all the pharmacists and other healthcare providers that are on the frontlines of the pandemic!