Pharmacies beg for reimbursements from Feds - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Pharmacies beg for reimbursements from Feds

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January 25, 2006

Albany - Some pharmacists say they could lose hundreds of thousands of dollars if the government doesn't reimburse them for drugs they've given to patients this month. After confusion about the new Medicare Prescription Drug plan, many pharmacists allowed patients to get their medicine in hopes the government would reimburse them. Governor Sonny Perdue announced Tuesday that pharmacies will be reimbursed, but there's a loophole that may force some pharmacies out of business.

Davis Drugs gave out thousands of dollars worth of medicines last month to low income patients after problems with the new Medicare Prescription Drug Plan left them temporarily without coverage.

"And no one's been reimbursed for any of it," said Pharmacist Carol Ray.

But news that the federal government now plans to reimburse pharmacies for those costs isn't a relief for pharmacist Carol Ray.

"This doesn't help the problem," said Ray.

Ray says there's loop hole that could keep pharmacies from recouping their money. To be reimbursed, the patients must not already be enrolled in a drug plan. But Ray says the government enrolled most patients, putting them in plans most pharmacies don't even except.

"I have been going back and forth trying to get my medicine," said patient Tyrone Cole.

Tyrone Cole relies on prescription drugs for chronic back pain and diabetes.

"I have to take a combination of about 13 and 20 pills a day."

When he tried to refill his medicines this month, he was told he must show his new drug card which he hadn't got in the mail yet even though he applied back in November. So he's done without his medicine for weeks.

"Sometimes I just get weak and don't want to eat. It's just really messing with my body right now," said Cole.

Ray says pharmacists will be forced to turn away patients, like Cole, in February if they can't get reimbursed.

"You basically have two choices," said Ray. "You can say 'Sorry but we don't do that anymore,' or you can tell them that their best bet is to check into the hospital so they can get their medications."

Ray says patients flooding hospitals and health departments will hopefully send a loud message to the federal government that new drug plan fiasco is making pharmacists sick.

Ray says some small pharmacies are already at risk of going out of business because they lost so much money giving away medicines.

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