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Reps. West and Russo urge Medicaid to enable pharmacist reimbursement for COVID-19 testing

June 4, 2020
Thomas West News

COLUMBUS—State Reps. Thomas West (D-Canton) and Allison Russo (D-Upper Arlington) today announced that they have sent a joint letter to Ohio Department of Medicaid (ODM) Director Maureen Corcoran requesting that she establish a pathway for Ohio’s pharmacists to be reimbursed for the administration of COVID-19 tests.

Specifically, the letter asks that “ODM take this critical step and create billing codes for COVID-19 specimen collection and testing so that pharmacists who care for Ohioans impacted by this pandemic can be appropriately reimbursed.”

The lawmakers’ letter comes after Governor Mike DeWine spoke at his May 28 press conference about how critical pharmacists are in ensuring widespread access to COVID-19 testing. However, community pharmacists have brought attention to the fact that ODM still has not set up a system through which to reimburse them for the testing costs.

“Swift action from ODM is needed so that pharmacists can depend on reimbursement for providing testing and other critical care to Ohio patients,” said Rep. West. “As the Governor has said, Ohio’s pharmacists are a critical part of our continued response to the COVID-19 pandemic. We must ensure they have the support they need to do their jobs and help boost our testing rates.”

“If we are to truly understand the scope of this public health crisis and manage it effectively, we must administer COVID-19 tests at the rate deemed necessary by our health experts,” said Rep. Russo.  “The participation of Ohio’s pharmacists in the administration of COVID-19 testing is crucial to these efforts, and we must make sure they are appropriately compensated.  I urge ODM to quickly create a pathway for Ohio’s pharmacists to bill ODM for authorized medical services so that they may continue providing care to ill Ohioans during this ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.”

Senate Bill (SB) 265 from the 132nd General Assembly provided the legal basis for pharmacists to be compensated for medical services. Additionally, the Ohio Board of Pharmacy recently issued guidance to clarify federal rules on how pharmacists should administer COVID-19 tests.

Recent data from the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) demonstrates that Ohio’s current testing capacity continues to lag behind Governor DeWine’s stated goals.

ODH figures show that Ohio averaged somewhere between 7,100 and 12,800 tests per day during the middle two weeks of May, far shy of the Governor’s desired 22,000 per day by May 27.