Because two of the three new Medicaid managed-care companies have slashed the dispensing fee they will pay them, independent pharmacists are in danger of going out of business all over the state, pharmacists told the interim joint Health and Welfare Committee yesterday.
But one managed-care firm said that's the cost of saving money for the taxpayers, the reason the state implemented managed care statewide. "We recognize ... there's a big change here for everyone," said Barb Witte, CEO of CoventryCares. "All health care providers are going to have to tighten their belts."
Under the traditional Medicaid system, "pharmacists were paid a 'dispensing fee' per prescription of $4.50 to $5 plus reimbursement for their actual cost of the drug based on an industry formula called the 'maximum allowable cost,'" reports Deborah Yetter of The Courier-Journal.
But the dispensing fee of CoventryCares is only $1 to $1.50. WellCare increased its fee to $3 from $1.50, but cut reimbursement for cost, making the increase only worth about 80 cents. Kentucky Spirit is still paying $4.50 to $5.
Because the maximum allowable cost fluctuates on a monthly basis, pharmacists don't know their return until they file a claim. Often, "pharmacists find they are being paid less than it cost them to buy the drug from a wholesaler," Yetter reports.
"How long will I be able to stay in business losing money?" asked Mayfield pharmacist Sam Willett. "Not very long."
Rep. Tom Burch, D-Louisville, told the MCOs and pharmacists to come to an agreement. "There must be a way to work this out," he said. (Read more)