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Pensacola News-Journal: Big news for small pharmacies

Friday, August 12, 2011

As the owner of a small pharmacy, I’m encouraged.

I’m encouraged because the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) listened to my concerns, along with other members of the Pharmacy Choice and Access Now coalition. We were founded to protect, you guessed it, choice and access.

Recently, the state of Florida sent the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services its Medicaid managed care proposal for vetting and approval. Many, including me, have been skeptical of the move to managed care for its potential to restrict access to care for patients.

Without adequate precaution or careful implementation, access to even the most fundamental pharmacy care and services for Medicaid patients could be restricted under managed care.

There is hope, however. I’m hopeful that my meetings with AHCA proved effective in protecting both Medicaid patients and community-based pharmacies providing Medicaid services. That was certainly the impression that the health care agency and state legislators gave following our  meeting in Tallahassee and the press conference highlighting our concerns.

Officials from AHCA have made it known that their intention is to include an open pharmacy provider network under Florida’s managed care system. This would allow patients to continue to access their trusted, local pharmacy for essential care.

The agency has also listened to concerns surrounding the delay in provider reimbursements from Pharmacy Benefit Managers. Prompt   reimbursement to the pharmacy makes it possible for pharmacies like mine, Kim’s Family Pharmacy in Cantonment, to service Medicaid patients.

Also, it is encouraging for state employees and Medicaid patients across the state that elected officials have stated that mail ordering of  prescriptions will not necessarily be made mandatory under Florida’s proposed law.

That is great news. I am appreciative of the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration’s support for open pharmacy networks, prompt  provider reimbursement, refusal of a mandatory  mail rule and commitment to Pharmacy Benefit Managers transparency under Florida’s incoming managed care system.

These common-sense protections are essential for community-based pharmacies to keep people employed and to continue servicing Medicaid patients who might otherwise be forced to go without care.

The voice of Florida Medicaid patients, taxpayers and community-based providers is essential to implementing an effective managed care system,  and I thank our officials for listening.

Kim Cadenhead is owner of Kim’s Family Pharmacy in Cantonment.

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