Plus, the latest pharmacy and healthcare news to know this week.
Earlier this month, US Senators Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii), Shelley Moore Capito (R-West Virginia), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-Rhode Island) introduced a bill to increase access to all recommended vaccines for Medicare beneficiaries. The Protecting Seniors through Immunizations Act of 2019 pushes for increased vaccination rates by providing shingles and tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (Tdap) vaccinations at no additional cost for Medicare beneficiaries.
Why it Matters
This bipartisan legislation aims to lower out-of-pocket costs for older adults who may be experiencing financial hardships that limit their access to these life-saving and preventative immunizations. Vaccines that are covered by Medicare Part D tend to have high beneficiary cost-sharing which serves as a barrier for many members. According to an analysis by Avalere, enrollees in Part D plans with no cost sharing from 2012-2016 had a 40% to 60% higher rate of shingles vaccinations in comparison to enrollees with cost sharing, suggesting that cost plays a role in vaccination rates. The new bill will also increase patient awareness about the benefits of these vaccines by incorporating information about vaccine coverage in the Medicare & You Handbook.
Shingles and Tdap may be the current focus of the new legislation, but the recent measles outbreak has also escalated conversations about the importance of vaccinations in fighting against preventable diseases. Pharmacists in all 50 states have the authority to provide immunizations to some capacity. According to the APhA and NASPA Survey of State IZ Laws, pharmacists can administer Tdap and Zoster (shingles) vaccines in all states, although some age restrictions and prescription requirements occur in some cases. This authorization further contributes to the expanding role of pharmacists in providing preventative care through necessary immunizations.
More healthcare news to watch:
1. On Monday, President Trump released an executive order to lower the cost of healthcare for patients by pushing for price transparency.
The New York Times.
2. A study finds that Google’s voice assistant is ahead of the race against competitors when it comes to helping patients with their medications.
3. Walgreens announced an expansion on its safe drug disposal program to include all pharmacy locations in the US.
4. As drug prices rise, US employers are expected to spend 6% more on medical costs.
5. The University of Maryland School of Pharmacy launches a new Medical Cannabis Degree program, the first of its kind in the US.
Editor’s Note: The Weekly Roundup will be taking a break next week to observe the July 4 holiday. We’ll be back on July 12.