A Better Region 8 Guest Edition: Local pharmacist call for special legislative session

By Tracy Mooneyham, an independent, retail pharmacist at West End Pharmacy in Jonesboro.

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - For many years, and like so many other locally owned and operated pharmacies in Region 8, we've prided ourselves on providing front-line access to quality healthcare for you, our neighbors and customers.

If you've seen the news lately, you know that independent pharmacies across the region are fighting a battle for our very survival in your community.

It is a battle that affects all of us, as pharmacy benefit managers, or PBMs for short, who operate as "middlemen" between you and your insurance company, have drastically reduced the prices they pay us for your medication, many times below what we pay for the medication.

These cuts cause the pharmacist to make a difficult decision of filling the prescription at a loss or turning patients away.

In addition, they could also lead to pharmacy closures.

Independent pharmacies are more than happy to compete on a fair and level playing field with the larger pharmacies, but we feel like the market is broken and the playing field is not level.

Pharmacists across Arkansas are asking for transparency and accountability in the practices of these "middlemen."

All healthcare providers including pharmacy and insurance companies are licensed and regulated in Arkansas, yet PBMs operate absolutely zero oversight in our state.

As pharmacists, we're asking you to join with us as we request the governor and state legislature to consider allowing a vote in a special legislative session on a bill that would require a PBM to be licensed in our state, and allow our state's insurance commission to oversee the industry.

We think allowing patients to choose their own pharmacy and pharmacist makes for a Better Region 8.

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