Provider status legislation makes progress in Massachusetts

Hearing held last month included testimony from pharmacists and physicians

The Massachusetts Senate and House of Representatives health care committee held a hearing on legislation that would expand the scope of practice for pharmacists in the state on June 27, 2017. The hearing on “An Act Recognizing Pharmacists as Healthcare Providers” (HB 1214/SB 1240) featured testimony from the leadership of Massachusetts Pharmacists Association (MPhA) and Massachusetts Independent Pharmacists Association (MIPA), pharmacists representing diverse practice settings, and physician supporters.

According to MPhA president Alicia Mam daCunha, PharmD, AE-C, BCACP, the bills would “increase access to care, optimize medication therapy, improve health outcomes, and minimize adverse drug reactions” and “allow clinical pharmacy programs to be sustainable and allow pharmacists to practice at the top of their license to provide comprehensive care as part of an integrated health care team.”

“Thus far, we have received significant support and since there was no opposition at the public hearing, the association is optimistic of a favorable report from the health care committee,” said Dennis Lyons, RPh, a lobbyist for MPhA and MIPA.

The bills’ provisions would allow pharmacists with collaborative practice agreements to modify dosages of medicines prescribed by the patient’s physician for any diagnosis and administer drugs and biological products ordered by the supervising physician. Additionally, if the legislation becomes law, pharmacists would gain the authority to furnish self-administered hormonal contraceptives and nicotine replacement products. Also, it would allow pharmacists to negotiate with health plans to provide medication therapy management (MTM) services.

Pharmacists turned out to advocate for the legislation. “From a clinical perspective, one may value our expertise. However, from a financial perspective, is it cost-effective to have a pharmacist be considered a health care provider? The CHIA report from the Compass group showed that the monthly insurance premium would increase an average of 59 cents,” Joanne Doyle-Petrongolo, PharmD, said during her testimony. “To put it in perspective, the Asheville pharmacy project that was the hallmark study that managed diabetes in 194 patients in an employer-based program decreased total…medical costs by $1,200 per patient per year.”

Physicians submitted testimony on behalf of the legislation, as well. “I have had several patients for whom we have been able to discontinue potentially dangerous medications, after determining that the patients have not actually been using them. It is truly a wonderful clinical asset [to] have clinical pharmacists on our team to provide health care to our patients,” Kathleen Ankers, MD, a family medicine primary care physician, said in written testimony.