California is experiencing a statewide physician shortage, and the Central Coast is no exception. Provider shortages create an enormous burden for our seniors, who often struggle with chronic conditions such as diabetes or high blood pressure. They might not be able to schedule appointments in a timely fashion, or may have transportation issues that prevent them from seeking care from another provider far from home.
With the Association of American Medical Colleges predicting a nationwide shortage of 90,000 physicians by 2025, these problems will not go away anytime soon.
Fortunately, health care is closer than it appears. Nearly all — 95 percent — Americans live within five miles of a community pharmacy. As a pharmacist, and the owner of Hometown Pharmacy in Santa Maria, I believe it makes sense to utilize pharmacists to alleviate some of the pressure created by physician shortages. We are ready to help seniors with services such as immunizations, health screenings and tests, and chronic disease management, so they can receive care close to home.
Right now, the Medicare Part B program does not recognize pharmacists as health care providers. That is why a bipartisan group in Congress is working to give pharmacists provider status, which would allow us to be reimbursed for the care we provide Medicare beneficiaries in underserved areas.
We ask Congressmember Lois Capps to support S.314 and H.R. 592, the Pharmacy and Medically Underserved Areas Enhancement Act, a sensible, cost-effective plan to ensure that our seniors have access to the care they need no matter where they live.