|While local and national lawmakers continue to fiddle with legislation affecting the health care system, area pharmacists are hoping that legislators will soon sing their tune. "We want them to think of us as part of the health care network, not just people who put pills in a bottle," says Ed Dillon, owner of Grubbs Pharmacy.
In a recent legislative briefing on Capitol Hill, the National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS) asked lawmakers to respect pharmacists' roles as health service providers. "We provide many services including providing our customers advise on taking the medications properly and that saves the system money," says Bob Gaines, an African-American pharmacist with KayCee Pharmacy. Most health professionals and consumer advocates agree that appropriate medication use leads to lower hospitalization rates and medical cost.
Today, four out of every five patients who visit a doctor leave their offices with a prescription. Third party-payers like insurance companies and the government pay for three out of four of those prescriptions. In turn, most third party-payers rely on pharmaceutical benefit management companies (PBM) to handle their business with pharmacies.
Pharmacists say they are finding it harder to spend time with each customer because PBMs are paying them less for each prescription they fill. "There are about three PBMs in this country and they control about nine out of 10 prescriptions that pharmacists fill," added Dillon, who represented independent pharmacies at the briefing. He says that they are also responsible for policies such as a patient being unable to get more than a 30-day supply of medicine at a time and the brand of medicine their insurance will cover.
According to the NACDS the average prescription costs $45.79 and about .85 cents of that becomes profit for the pharmacists. Pharmacists say they deserve a higher profit margin to cover such vital health services such as providing counseling, free delivery, specialized packaging, and customized prescription. Gaines added, "In short, we need policies that will continue to allow pharmacists to give patients full-service pharmacy benefits and not simple drug-filling benefits."
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