HME providers, community pharmacists seek recognition

Recent win in Pennsylvania means providers are eligible for hazard pay
 - 
Friday, July 31, 2020

ALEXANDRIA, Va. – HME providers and community pharmacists have continued to serve on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic – and like other health care providers, they want to be recognized for that. 

The National Community Pharmacists Association recently launched the “Essential” Campaign to keep up the pressure on lawmakers for relief, including hazard pay, says Douglas Hoey, CEO. 

“Pharmacists have been there since the beginning of this and we need recognition and relief for some of those efforts,” he said. “Reconfiguring your pharmacy, having staff dedicated for curbside pickup, adding plexiglass – all of those things add up to significant cash outflow.” 

Other expenses for many pharmacies include putting in a drive-through pick-up, and investing in technology for contactless dispensing of prescriptions, says Hoey. 

Congress is working on a fourth COVID relief package that may include provisions providing relief, such as protection from opportunistic lawsuits, an extension of the Paycheck Protection Program and hazard pay. 

The NCPA would also like to see recognition of pharmacists as health care providers and expand their authority to administer COVID testing, says Hoey. 

“In normal times, the community pharmacy is a safety net for patients who don’t fit on the assembly line of health care,” he said. “During the pandemic, the ability for pharmacies to fill gaps to help patients has been accentuated.” 

Success story 

The Pennsylvania Association of Medical Suppliers (PAMS) recently secured COVID-19 hazard pay for HME providers as part of the state’s grant program for frontline workers. HME providers that meet certain requirements can now apply for hazard pay grants of up to $1,200 per eligible full-time employee to be paid over a 10-week period. 

“At the beginning of the public health emergency, we reached out when the government was making decisions on who was essential,” said Mindy Eberhart, executive director. “Health care was listed but not specifically HME providers and we knew that would cause confusion.” 

The pandemic has really underscored the role HME providers play in keeping the health care system running smoothly, says Eberhart. 

“Our providers have worked diligently from day 1 to make sure they are out there helping patients and keeping patients in the home during the PHE,” she said. “We are keeping (hospital) beds available for people infected with COVID 19.”