COVID-19 testing should become more widely accessible to Ohioans as the state Department of Medicaid announced Monday it will begin paying all pharmacies for administering the test.
The roughly 2,000 community pharmacies across the state have been shut out, unable to provide the service because the state had not set up a system to reimburse them for the cost, which can run up to $100.
“The governor in one of his recent press conferences talked about the importance of testing for COVID-19 and his commitment to pharmacies to enable billing for COVID testing,” Medicaid Director Maureen Corcoran said Monday.
“Beginning next week pharmacies will be able to bill for COVID-19 testing. Pharmacists will be able to administer the tests using the pharmacies (existing provider number) very similar to how we handle vaccinations.”
The director made the announcement during a presentation to the Prescription Drug Transparency and Affordability Council. It came 10 days after The Dispatch reported the Medicaid department had not set up provider identification numbers for independent pharmacies to allow payment.
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Corcoran did not disclose how much pharmacies will be paid.
Antonio Ciaccia, lobbyist for the Ohio Pharmacists Association, welcomed the news and said he expects “a good amount (of pharmacies) to jump in.”
So far, only larger pharmacy chains like CVS and Kroger are offering testing because they have in-store clinics with the necessary credentials from the state as a medical provider allowing them to be paid for the service.
As of Sunday, Ohio had 41,148 confirmed or probable cases of coronavirus with 2,557 deaths. Gov. Mike DeWine has pledged to expand the availability of testing as Ohio slowly reopens its economy.
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Lawmakers have criticized Medicaid for failing to implement legislation passed 1½ years ago to begin compensating pharmacists for medical services in addition to the reimbursements they receive to dispense medications. If the system were in place, billing for COVID-19 testing would not be an issue.
Corcoran did not say when the system to pay pharmacies for providing medical services as called for under the January 2019 law would be in place, only that they could bill for COVID testing using the same code they use for prescription drug reimbursement.
Ohio’s independent pharmacies have been hard hit by low payments to fill prescriptions for Medicaid patients, causing the closure of nearly 400 pharmacies in recent years and creating pharmacy deserts in underserved and disadvantaged communities across the state. The financial hardship has forced many of those that remain open to scale back services and interactions with doctors and patients.
Compensating pharmacies for medical services should allow them to resume such services, including chronic disease management, lab tests and drug administration.