WALNUT RIDGE, AR (KAIT) - Local pharmacists across Arkansas are hopeful that a bill that was signed into law Thursday will allow them to stay open and continue to serve customers.
Governor Asa Hutchinson signed the bill, which requires pharmacy benefits managers to be licensed by the state.
The signing of the bill comes after a special legislative session was called to discuss the topic, prompted by independent pharmacists from across the state who were struggling after reimbursements were cut starting Jan. 1, 2018.
That is when the amount that insurance companies reimburse pharmacies abruptly changed, specifically for patients with insurance plans in the Arkansas Works program.
Bryian Rogers, who owns Rogers Pharmacy in Walnut Ridge, said they were not being paid back fairly for the medicine they sold and without a change, independent pharmacists would likely not be able to stay open.
"We had probably 2,000 plus patients that were on this kind of plan that we were going to have to fill every prescription at a loss," Rogers said. "The plans were not paying great, but they were paying what we considered to be fair. When this happened, I and other pharmacists that I've talked to said we just cannot do this."
Rogers is thankful that the state lawmakers recognized the problem and realized that PBMs need oversight.
"The little independents are sometimes the last line of defense for these patients and if we can't be able to fill prescriptions, these people are going to go to the big chains and just stand in line for days for their medicine," Rogers said.
He noted that local pharmacists often do more than just dispense medicine. They often consult with patients about symptoms and medications before the person even sees a doctor.
Rogers said he is excited to see how this law plays out and hopeful that it will put them back on an even playing field with the chain companies.
"What we're interested in is to be able to get what they are reimbursing themselves and we know that that is not going to happen but if they come back to the point where they are fair with us, I think we will accept that," he said.