For decades, pharmacists have been fighting to be recognized as providers by the healthcare system. On October 1 that dream became a reality in California as Governor Jerry Brown signed into law, Senate Bill 493, which declares pharmacists providers in California.
A confluence of events has led to this landmark legislation. The Affordable Care Act, which was enacted in 2010, will bring an additional 5 to 6 million people into the California healthcare system. There is a growing shortage of primary care providers, with the Association of the American Medical Colleges estimating a shortage of some 150,000 doctors by 2025. While the ACA promises to increase access to care, making it available and making it accessible are clearly two very different things.
Senator Ed Hernanadez, an optometrist by profession, realized that the looming shortage of primary care providers would defeat the very essence of the ACA bill if Californians were not able to find practitioners to provide care to them. He soon recognized that pharmacists were well prepared to provide aspects of that care and underutilized in the system. He set out to remedy this with sponsorship of Senate Bill 493 which he introduced in January.
“Pharmacists are a critical component of the healthcare team,” said Senator Hernandez. “This law will ensure all patients, regardless of where they live, have increased access to quality healthcare services.
The bill authorizes pharmacists to provide basic care services in collaboration with physicians, medical homes and other systems of care where patients receive treatments. While all the abilities addressed in the bill are currently within the pharmacist scope of practice, they are generally limited to specific care settings. SB 493 expands the range of settings in which pharmacists can practice these services, while also allowing them to independently administer certain vaccines, selected nicotine replacement drugs and hormonal contraceptives.
Jon Roth, CEO of the California Pharmacists Association, said, “California has declared pharmacists as providers and made important changes to the pharmacy law that will enable pharmacists to practice consistent with their training and expertise.”
School of Pharmacy Dean R. Pete Vanderveen said, “This is a landmark day for pharmacists and patients in California. I congratulate and thank all those who worked so hard to make this legislation a reality – including Senator Hernandez, Jon Roth, and our USC students, faculty and alumni.”