Advocacy Alert: How to ask for provider status inclusion in the next COVID-19 bill

The next COVID-19 legislative package

In this “new normal” of the pandemic we have seen giant pieces of legislation being crafted and passing through Congress. These packages are being used for a variety of different issues in order to help the country respond to the pandemic. We saw the results of the CARES Act as money went back into the hands of the public in order to stimulate the economy and assistance was given to the healthcare system to ensure access to care is maintained. Another massive piece of legislation, the HEROES Act (which we reviewed in the post here) was passed out of the House but has not made any progress in the Senate. As we are now seeing cases start to spike again, Congress is beginning conversations on what would need to be included in the next iteration of a COVID-19 legislative package. Media is reporting that Congress plans to have these conversations over the next two weeks with an initial draft of legislation coming together by the end of July.

Organizations and lobbying groups are already making the rounds to members of Congress asking for their priorities to be included in the next package. However, the involvement of this brainstorming process is not meant to be limited to lobbying groups. Citizens and healthcare professionals should be a part of this process. Your elected officials represent you, and a great way for pharmacists and students to get involved in grassroots advocacy initiatives is to bring forth considerations to your elected leaders for pieces of legislation and regulatory changes.

In past posts, we have reviewed the why behind the importance of provider status and the how behind the federal legislative strategy. We also have begun to discuss the need for incremental changes in order to reach our eventual goal: increased access for all patients to pharmacist-provided care as a result of sustainable reimbursement for pharmacist services. Now is the time for one of those incremental changes. As Congress takes steps on the next COVID-19 legislation, there is an opportunity for pharmacists and students to contact elected leaders and voice our recommendations to include reimbursement for pharmacists under Medicare Part B for COVID-19 and influenza services to patients during the state of emergency.

Which advocacy path will you take?

Now is go-time for all pharmacists, students and advocates for pharmacists’ provider status to take action by contacting their elected leaders. Given the restrictions due to the current pandemic and the abbreviated timeline, we have identified three pathways by which you can advocate for this issue, broken down by the amount of time you can invest.

It is also important to be mindful of the effectiveness of different advocacy strategies. Research has shown that the more unique/individual communication can be with your elected leaders, the more impactful it is. Any action is better than no action – but remember that taking the time to make your message personal will result in bigger gains for the effort you’re fighting for.

Quick impact – 60 seconds to 5 minutes to make a difference

The first advocacy pathway is for those looking to make a quick impact on this issue with minimal time to invest. Through the American Pharmacists Association (APhA) Action Center you can enter in your address and three auto-populated letters will be crafted for you to send to your two Senators and Congresswoman/man. This letter aligns with the ask members of the profession should be advocating for. However, it is important to take a few moments to make this message personal. This can be accomplished by including information about where you currently practice and/or go to school. Include a personal anecdote that showcases the positive therapeutic or economic value of pharmacist-provided care. Making this message personal will increase the impact of the letter sent to your elected leaders. Press send, and in just a few minutes, you have already made a positive impact for future patients and the profession.

Every pharmacist, student, and advocate for pharmacists’ provider status should at a minimum send a letter.

Establishing a relationship – 5 minutes to 15 minutes to make an impact

What about those that may have a few more minutes to spare to advocate for the profession? Well, if you do, consider calling your member of Congress’s office and leaving a brief voicemail expressing your thoughts about what should be included in future COVID-19 legislative packages. This can be a great way to express your thoughts in a more personal way than sending a letter. If you are worried about what you will say on the voicemail, consider pulling the language from the automated letter from APhA’s Action Center into a document and adapting it with any personal anecdotes you would like to share. Having these talking points in front of you is helpful to ensure you are communicating a concise and consistent message to your elected leaders about what your asks are.

If you want to ensure your call goes to voicemail, call the office outside of business hours.

Advocacy Achiever – 15 minutes to 60 minutes to make an impact

For those that want to go above and beyond, consider scheduling a meeting with your member of Congress or one of their legislative aides. Constituents meeting with elected leaders or their staff members has been shown to be the most effective way to advocate for issues. Search for your elected leaders on your preferred browser, and once you find their webpage, there are usually options to schedule a meeting. Enter in your information and a message around why you would like to meet (adaptable template available here).

When preparing for your meeting, list out your talking points, like we described above. Also, during these individual meetings is a great time to bring constituency connection to this issue. In addition to including personal anecdotes about why this issue is important, help the person you are meeting understand why it is vital to that elected leader’s district.

For this issue, consider going to www.census.gov/mycd and looking up the statistics of your district. You can quickly find the number of individuals over the age of 65 and get an estimate of the number of Medicare beneficiaries in the constituency. For District 12 in Ohio, this comes out to 123,476 people. All of a sudden, you’ve taken this abstract idea, and directly connected it to their district. This is just one example of many possible tools to use when advocating.

Regardless of how you are advocating, share your story, be concise, keep it positive, and be respectful. You can help to create the change you want to see in the healthcare world by taking any of the above pathways.

If there is anything we can do to support you, feel free to contact us at grassroots.rph@gmail.com. Now get out there and make a difference. If we each do our part, it may only take a few minutes to change the world.

Published by The Grassroots Pharmacist

We are pharmacists passionate about engaging pharmacists in advancing health policy

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