Cosponsors Bipartisan Grassley Bill to Improve Access to Care in Rural, Underserved Areas 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) today joined U.S. Senator Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) in reintroducing bipartisan legislation to allow pharmacists in rural and underserved areas to offer basic health care services to Medicare beneficiaries.

The Pharmacy and Medically Underserved Areas Enhancement Act of 2023 (S.1491) would authorize Medicare payments for pharmacists who offer health care services such as health and wellness screenings, immunizations, and diabetes management in communities lacking easy access to doctors.

“We must consider innovations to help alleviate the growing stress on rural health care and those who rely on it.  This legislation is one such innovation.  It would improve access to basic care for seniors by reimbursing pharmacists who offer health care services to Medicare beneficiaries,” Hyde-Smith said.  “It’s time to take this step and help those in rural and underserved areas.”

“The health and wellness of older Americans ought to be prioritized, regardless of zip code,” Grassley said.  “For many seniors in rural areas, especially in Iowa, it’s simply easier to get to a pharmacist than a doctor.  Licensed pharmacists should be compensated by Medicare to perform basic medical services so seniors can be saved taxing trips to far-flung doctors’ offices.” 

Many states, including Mississippi, already allow pharmacists to provide these services but there currently is no way for pharmacists to receive Medicare reimbursement for providing them.  

In addition to improving access for older Americans in communities lacking easy access to doctors, S.1491 would also authorize Medicare payments for those services where pharmacists are already licensed under state law to provide them so long as the setting is in a health professional shortage area, medically underserved area, or serving a medically underserved population.

U.S. Senators Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), and Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) are also original cosponsors.  The American Pharmacists Association and American Society of Health-System Pharmacists are among the groups that support the legislation.