Alexandria, Va. - Sept. 21, 2010
Officials implementing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act should utilize community pharmacists in meeting what is expected to be a surge in patient demand for preventative care services, the National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA) said in comments recently submitted to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
NCPA's comments come in response to HHS' proposed interim final rule, which would waive patient co-pays for certain recommended preventative services and vaccines. Examples of preventative services commonly available at community pharmacies include blood pressure and cholesterol screening, tobacco cessation and obesity-related counseling and intervention, and routine immunizations. The HHS requirement would apply to private, non-grandfathered group health plans and health insurance issuers offering group or individual health insurance coverage through the health insurance exchanges scheduled to take effect in 2014.
"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 said in its comments. "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."
To satisfy the anticipated need for preventative care services, there will be an increased demand for qualified providers that pharmacists can help fulfill. NCPA added that 92% of Americans are located within five miles of a retail pharmacy and appointments aren't required.
NCPA's comments offered HHS officials two specific recommendations:
The National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA®) represents America's community pharmacists, including the owners of more than 22,700 independent community pharmacies, pharmacy franchises, and chains. Together they represent an $88 billion health-care marketplace, employ over 65,000 pharmacists, and dispense over 40% of all retail prescriptions. To learn more go to www.ncpanet.org or read NCPA's blog, The Dose, at http://ncpanet.wordpress.com.
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