MARCH 20, 2006 - Posted at 7:36 a.m. CST
LITTLE ROCK, AR - Some Arkansas pharmacists say bureaucratic foulups that bedeviled Medicare prescription drug procedures aren't the only problems with the program that started January 1. The problems that remain as those foulups are straightened out are even more serious from their point of view...lower reimbursements and longer waits for payment.
Mark Riley, director of the Arkansas Pharmacists Association, says he's starting to see some despair from a lot of the pharmacists who call and say the numbers aren't getting any better. He said that, if the situation continues, the rate of drugstores closing will accelerate, particularly smaller rural pharmacies that just don't have the reserve money to absorb the hit.
Owners of small drugstores say they have little leverage and must choose between signing up or losing customers. Small stores have less money than larger chains to pay wholesalers while they wait for reimbursement and less revenue from the sale of other items...groceries, gifts and sundries, to offset losses from lower drug prices.
When pharmacists eventually do get paid, they say, the reimbursements are lower than those paid by other insurance plans and by Medicaid, the government insurance program for the poor.