Submitted by Thomas Buckley, CSHP Legislative Chair
Advocacy isn’t just about what happens in Washington, D.C. It’s about what you can do close to home as you build relationships with elected officials, policymakers and colleagues. The CSHP Legislative Committee works with the CSHP Board, the CSHP lobbyist and other interested parties around Connecticut to advocate for issues specifically relevant to pharmacy practice. Our lobbyist is Fred Knous, a veteran healthcare lobbyist in Hartford and a former state Senator from Portland, CT. He has tremendous relationships with all legislators and other key policymakers, and is more than willing to help any CSHP member work legislative chair of CSHP, Tom Buckley, was a hospital pharmacist for 18 years, then worked as a medical outcomes researcher with Pfizer, and has been a full-time UConn Pharmacy faculty member for the past 9 years, coordinating their public health curriculum.
CSHP works closely with other pharmacy entities in Connecticut, including CPA, CT-ASCP and other health care entities with interest in legislative or policy initiatives affecting pharmacy practice. CSHP was a leader in developing and passing collaborative drug therapy management (CDTM) legislation, starting with the publication of a White Paper in 1994, through the initial passing of the CDTM bill in 2002, and ultimately the current version of the law in 2012, enabling pharmacists in any practice setting to develop and manage collaborative practice protocols with physicians for any medication or medical condition. CSHP also was very active in immunization administration legislation, allowing pharmacists to provide any immunization on the CDC adult immunization schedule.
CSHP has been continually involved in provider recognition and reimbursement policies for pharmacy practice. This includes working with CT Medicaid and all commercial payers in the state, and with Medicare on the federal level, particularly with the current bill in Congress. Becoming a “provider” in the Social Security Act means that pharmacists can participate in Part B of the Medicare program and bill Medicare for services that are allowed under their state scope of practice. The Pharmacy and Medically Underserved Areas Enhancement Act (H.R. 592/ S. 109) is bipartisan legislation that will amend section 1861 (s) (2) of the Social Security Act to include pharmacists on the list of recognized healthcare providers. CSHP asks all members to discuss this legislation with their members of Congress (both House and Senate), and ask them to become co-sponsors. Currently in Connecticut, H.R. 592 has 3 co-sponsors (DeLauro, Larson, Courtney), while S. 109 has only Senator Blumenthal as a co-sponsor.
CSHP works closely with our lobbyist especially when the General Assembly is in session. Connecticut has a part-time legislature, meeting during odd years from January to June, while in even years from February to May. However, if CSHP is strongly advocating for new or current legislation that may be seeking a change, the advocacy work required to push legislation to a successful conclusion typically can be a year-round endeavor. This is where the CSHP legislative committee and the CSHP Board cannot possibly accomplish advocacy gains without the grassroots efforts of practicing pharmacists and the CSHP membership. When the word goes out through email alerts or other communication vehicles that an important initiative is occurring that may affect pharmacy practice, your voice, your action in clinical practice, your email, your phone call, or just your interactions with your neighbors play a critical role in advancing pharmacy practice initiatives in our state. Connecticut is blessed to have a very tight pharmacy community, meaning it is a small state with active practitioners and pharmacy leaders. Therefore, very simple actions can create major change.
Lobbying comes in all shapes and sizes, dispositions and attitudes. We lobby because we are the best representative of pharmacy. Legislators cannot possibly be informed of every issue, therefore a responsibility of our job of being a “good steward” of our profession, is to inform legislators about pharmacy. When told the President is a lobbyist for the people, Harry Truman responded: “God knows they need it!” Making an impact in a small state like Connecticut can come from a simple phone call, email, letter, and most effectively through a one-on-one visit – whether it’s at a legislative office, or at your practice site. The CSHP legislative committee and Board will guide you through the process, provide you with all the background information you will need for a specific issue, and set up appointments for you with influential policymakers. There is an old adage on how a legislator interprets communication from a constituent that is particularly relevant in Connecticut: one letter received is “a kook”, 2 letters received is “a kook with a friend”, 3 letters received means “someone had a meeting”, while 4 letters received is considered “a movement.”
Pharmacy advocacy means creating that movement – for your practice, your profession, and most importantly for your patients. The CSHP legislative committee has a long history of understanding health care issues and their relevance to pharmacy practice, and stands poised to work with you to open new doors for pharmacists to use your extensive clinical knowledge to care for your patients.