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Bartell to cease filling Medicaid prescriptions at 15 locations

BY DSN STAFF

NEW YORK The Medicaid storm is still intense in Washington as Bartell Drugs has announced that — as of Feb. 1 — it will no longer fill Medicaid prescriptions at 15 of its 57 stores. Limiting access to pharmacies with its payment cuts could spell an increase in other healthcare costs — costs that represent the majority of health expenditures.

As stated in the article, the decision stems from a court decision in Massachusetts in September 2009 that reduced the industry pricing standard.

Bartell stated that — unlike most other insurance providers, including other states — the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services has made no effort to offset this significant reduction, resulting in sizeable reductions in payments to pharmacies.

The intent, according to Bartell, is to return to the established level of compensation prior to the Sept. 26, 2009, court action. As it currently stands, Bartell simply can’t afford to fill the Medicaid prescriptions.

While Bartell currently is the only pharmacy retailer to take such action, it certainly isn’t alone in the battle.

In March 2009, Walgreens threatened to stop serving Medicaid patients in 44 of its stores in the state. The company at that time stated that it operates 111 pharmacies throughout the state, but the 44 pharmacies in question represented more than 60% of its total Medicaid business in the state. However, in May 2009, Walgreens stated that it would continue to serve Medicaid patients when the state agreed to make smaller cuts than it had planned.

But will the court decision in Massachusetts now prompt other pharmacies to follow in Bartell’s footsteps? Perhaps, but if you ask Doug Porter, the state’s director of Medicaid, he will likely say no. In a recent Seattle Times article, Porter was quoted as saying that Medicaid recipients should not worry about other companies following suit and he is “convinced pharmacies can weather this change.” As reported by the Seattle Times, several pharmacies and industry trade groups filed suit in U.S. District Court in Seattle trying to force the state to return its reimbursement rates to those it was paying before the Massachusetts settlement. A hearing is scheduled for Jan. 15.

Last year, the pharmacy groups filed another lawsuit, after an earlier attempt by the state to cut its reimbursement rates. That suit was withdrawn when the state agreed to make smaller cuts than it had planned.

“We are deeply concerned about the health of our patients. Pharmacists are on the front lines of our healthcare system protecting patients by ensuring safe and appropriate medication use. Commercial healthcare payers and Medicaid programs in some states have already adjusted pharmacy reimbursement necessary to maintain patient access to the essential care provided by pharmacies. If Washington Medicaid does not do the same, it can result in reduced access to medicine for our neediest and most vulnerable patients ultimately leading to expensive emergency room visits and hospitalizations,” stated Jeff Rochon, Pharm.D., CEO, Washington State Pharmacy Association, in an NACDS press statement issued in September.

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Teel rejoins Raley’s as CEO

BY Allison Cerra

WEST SACRAMENTO, Calif. Raley’s board of directors Wednesday announced that Michael Teel, grandson of the regional supermarket founder, Tom Raley, will lead the chain as CEO.

“He knows the market; he knows the company,” said the co-chairman, Jim Teel. “The board and the family welcome Michael back with our full, 100% support.”

Michael led the company from 1996 to 2002, and returned with the message that he is focused on the family’s goal of keeping the company privately held and staying true to Raley’s core values.

“This is a special company. We are unique in how our employees offer service to our customers. I value that strength, and see it as essential to who we are,” Michael Teel said. “As a leader, my role is to foster this unique quality and allow it to thrive.”

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Fred’s reports monthly sales

BY Michael Johnsen

MEMPHIS, Tenn. Deep discounter Fred’s on Thursday posted $209.3 million in sales for the five weeks ended Jan. 2, representing a 4% increase as compared with December 2008. Comparable-store sales for the month increased 1.3%, versus flat comparable-store sales in the same period last year.

“We are pleased with Fred’s December sales performance, especially considering the tough consumer environment that persists, as comparable-store sales for the month rebounded,” stated Bruce Efird, Fred’s CEO. “Several key factors contributed to these positive results, including improved customer traffic, continued pharmacy department script growth and better clearance of seasonal inventory.”

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