Legislative Day 2013 filled with heightened anticipation in the era of health care reform

Image of Presentation During Pharmacy Legislative DayUSC School of Pharmacy students hosted the school’s annual Legislative Day event on September 27 at the USC Health Sciences Campus. The program provided students an opportunity to hear from elected officials and pharmacy leaders on the future of the pharmacy profession in the era of the Affordable Care Act and California Senate Bill 493 which identifies pharmacists as health care providers.

Dean R. Pete Vanderveen welcomed the group of nearly 200 and opened the day’s discussion saying, “Health care reform gives us the opportunity to grasp what we have wanted to do – it’s a huge step forward.”

Students were further encouraged to take the step forward by speaker Rebecca Cupp, vice president of pharmacy for Ralphs Pharmacies, who has been active in the profession for 35 years. Cupp told the students, “Don’t just go down this road, accelerate down it. It is a very exciting time to be in pharmacy.”

This excitement was magnified throughout the morning as discussion turned to the Affordable Care Act and the demand it has created for pharmacists and to the California Senate Bill 493, sitting on Governor Jerry Brown’s desk awaiting signature. Among the day’s speakers was Senator Ed Hernandez who sponsored the California senate bill.

Hernandez compared the course that the ACA is following to that of Medicare, when it was introduced back in the Johnson era. Further, he said that the ACA is dependent on “what’s going on in California”, noting that the state will have a huge capacity issue as four to five million Californians will be new entrants to the system, creating a shortfall of primary care providers. He put forth Senate Bill 493 as a way to address this issue.

“I realized how underutilized pharmacists were and we don’t have enough primary care providers to offer access to those entering the system,” said the state senator who is also an optometrist. “If the governor signs the bill, this landmark piece of legislation will be transformative for your profession.”

In his remarks, Jonathan Nelson, government and special projects manager for the California Society of Health-system Pharmacists, noted Senator Hernandez’s passion to increase health care access through SB 493 and, he thanked the Senator as well as Dean Vanderveen and all who have helped move the bill forward. Also speaking at the event was Jon Roth, CEO of the California Pharmacists Association, who discussed the importance of grassroots advocacy in moving legislation forward.

President-elect of the CPhA, Kathleen Hill-Besinque, told students to find a passion in their profession and to never let “no mean you give up, just that you have to find a different way.” Besinque is an associate professor at the school.

The event concluded with a message from Victor Law, a board member of the California State Board of Pharmacy and chairman of United Pharmacists Network, a platinum sponsor of the event for many years. Ralphs was also a platinum sponsor and gold sponsors included CPhA and the South Bay-Long Beach Society of Health-system Pharmacists.

The event brought together pharmacy students from USC, Western and Touro as well as physical therapy, medical and dental students from USC. Legislative Day 2013 was hosted by USC student pharmacy organizations under the leadership of Lillian Lee, Theresa Tran and Joseph Lee.