Judge freezes Medi-Cal cuts
LOS ANGELES —A federal district court here has stanched the bleeding at many pharmacies in the Golden State by ordering the state to halt a 10-percent cut in Medi-Cal payments to healthcare providers.
Ruling in favor of professional and retail groups that filed suit to stop the cuts, U.S. District Judge Christina Snyder found that pharmacies, and other Medi-Cal providers and patients, were being hurt by the cutbacks, which went into effect July 1. Other suits still are pending against the state.
While not a permanent injunction, the ruling is a key victory for pharmacy. “Pharmacies were losing money on nearly every Medi-Cal transaction, and many pharmacies have been forced to turn away Medi-Cal patients,” asserted the California Pharmacists Association.
In addition to pharmacies, the court order includes relief for physicians, dentists, adult day healthcare centers, clinics, health systems and other healthcare providers, and it applies to services on or after July 1.
“This case has been a rollercoaster ride since the beginning,” said Lynn Rolston, chief executive officer of the California Pharmacists Association. “The California Pharmacists Association applauds Judge Snyder for recognizing the damage the cuts were having on pharmacy and the patients they serve.”
Many pharmacy and retail groups joined the suit, including the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, the National Community Pharmacists Association, the California Pharmacists Association and other groups. “This fight is not over, and the fight is not over in states nationwide,” NACDS president and chief executive officer, Steve Anderson, told pharmacy leaders last month in San Diego. “But this is progress…and a major win for the concept of collaboration among pharmacy advocates.”
If the Medi-Cal cuts are eventually implemented, said Longs Drug chairman, president and chief executive officer, Warren Bryant, “pharmacies can lose an average of $30 or more on every brand Medi-Cal prescription they filled.”
“One study in California compared what 1,000 pharmacies paid for the 278 most common drugs and how much they cost to dispense. After the 10-percent cuts, Medi-Cal reimbursement for 275 of the 278 drugs is below the break-even cost,” Bryant noted at the NACDS’ 2008 Pharmacy and Technology Conference. “Fortunately…[the court] stepped in to block the cuts, in its ruling citing what we warned all along: that pharmacies…and patients were being ‘irreparably harmed’ as a result of the cuts.”
Bryant said he understood “the difficulty of balancing state budgets in a tough economy, [but] that doesn’t change the fact that in pushing for these cuts, state lawmakers ignored all the evidence out there about the value of pharmacy services and the importance of these services for the state’s neediest patients.”
Walgreens donates food, supplies as new storms target Gulf, Southeast
DEERFIELD, Ill. Walgreens has sent truckloads of food, water and emergency supplies to Baton Rouge, La., to aid with continuing Hurricane Gustav relief efforts.
Among the necessities shipped to hard-hit residents: water, trail mix, granola bars and other snack items, along with infant formula and diapers. Walgreens reports it is also gathering supplies to place on standby for a swift response to new emergency requests across the nation’s southeast coast with the expected arrival of Tropical Storm Hanna this weekend and Hurricane Ike next week.
“We’ll direct critical resources to communities in need,” said Walgreens director of community affairs John Gremer. “We’re on alert, and we’ll be ready to help wherever we can.”
The company notes there is still “tremendous need in many Baton Rouge communities,” which were among the hardest hit by Gustav. “Thousands remain without electricity, and food and water are still in high demand,” the company reports.
Another priority is getting any stores that were closed due to the storm back open quickly, according to the chain. As of Friday morning, Walgreens reported, “all but one of Walgreens’ 15 Baton Rouge stores are open. Across the Gulf Coast region, only nine remain closed down from 69 closed immediately following the storm.”
Rite Aid donates $44,500-plus in supplies for Gustav evacuees
CAMP HILL, Pa. To further assist evacuees of Hurricane Gustav, The Rite Aid Foundation is donating more than $44,500 worth of supplies including water, snacks, sunscreen, hand sanitizer and other personal hygiene products as requested by the Louisiana Capital Area Chapter of the American Red Cross to be distributed at shelters for evacuees, the Foundation announced Friday
“Throughout the Gulf Coast, widespread flooding and violent wind damage have created an urgent need for disaster support,” stated Jeff Towers, chief development officer at the American Red Cross. “Rite Aid generously responded to this need through in-kind and financial support to help the Red Cross provide food, shelter and counseling to Gulf Coast communities during this hurricane season.”
Earlier this week, The Rite Aid Foundation made a $75,000 donation to the American Red Cross to help the victims, families and communities affected by Hurricane Gustav in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. A relief team of Rite Aid associates, including store cashiers and pharmacists, have traveled from Tennessee and unaffected areas of Louisiana and Alabama to help stores that have been impacted and to help reopen additional stores.
“One of Rite Aid’s core values is to be caring neighbors in the communities we serve, and we are happy to work with the American Red Cross to help the evacuees of Hurricane Gustav,” commented Mike Seesholtz, Rite Aid regional vice president for Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi. “Our associates have been amazing in their commitment to do whatever they can to help the victims of Hurricane Gustav.”
Residents displaced by the hurricane can visit any open Rite Aid for their prescriptions because the company’s satellite-linked computer network assures a complete customer prescription history at any Rite Aid store. Because of the state of emergency, Rite Aid pharmacies also can access prescription information for patients who do not normally get their prescriptions at Rite Aid.