Delegates work to help local pharmacists on Medicaid issue

In an effort to calm concerns about a United Healthcare Medicaid change that would force the ill and disabled to drive up to 30 miles to pick up prescriptions, a Maryland lawmaker has introduced a bill.

Delegate Chris Adams  introduced House Bill 1290, “Managed Care Organizations – Enrollees Access to Pharmacy Services – Requirements.”

It would require United Healthcare and other providers to include enough pharmacies in their networks so members would travel no more than 15 miles in rural areas instead of 30 miles.

It was heard in the House Health and Government Operations Committee April 2.

Members of the Eastern Shore Delegation met March 27 with local pharmacists, Governor Hogan’s administration and representatives from United Healthcare to discuss the changes.

The matter was first was brought to Delegate Mary Beth Carozza and the delegation’s attention by local pharmacists who called them, deeply concerned about effects of the change. The pharmacists feared it would eliminate many rural, local pharmacies from United Healthcare’s network because of the distance they would have to travel and because customers were told only Walmart, CVS and Giant pharmacies would be able to fill their prescriptions.

Local pharmacists worried it would hurt scores of customers who depend on free delivery. Many customers on Medicaid can’t drive, are too ill to operate a vehicle or don’t have a car, several pharmacists told The Salisbury Independent last week.

At the Shore Delegation Meeting last month,  United Healthcare representatives told delegation members that  United extended contracts to 47 more pharmacies in Maryland. Of those, about half are  on the Eastern Shore, according to a news release from Adams’ office.

Jeff Sherr, owner of Apple Discount Drugs in Fruitland, was quoted in that news released.

“I am encouraged that small businesses like ours will continue to be able to serve our patients. This bill addresses not only issues with access to care. It is also a protection for businesses that serve our rural Eastern Shore communities and employ our local citizens,” Sherr stated.

Carozza said patients must be the primary concern.

“As changes are made to health care, we need to ensure that patients have access to necessary medications. We in the Eastern Shore delegation will remain vigilant in protecting patient access to pharmacy services,” she stated in the news release.

Adams called the situation “just another example of the unintended consequences of the State of Maryland’s early embracement of Obamacare.”

“HB1290 is a reasoned response that will make pharmaceutical services more accessible to senior citizens on the Eastern Shore, as well as save hundreds of pharmacies from going out of business throughout Maryland,” Adams said.

The bill not only reduces the number of miles a customer would travel, but also provides the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene “with control over critical access to care decisions by managed care organizations,” Adams said.

His bill would reduce the number of miles customers would travel from 10 to 5  in urban areas, from 30 to 15 in rural areas and from 20 to 10  in suburban areas.

Co-sponsoring the bills were Delegates Carl Anderton, Mark Fisher, Kevin Hornberger, Jay Jacobs, Johnny Mautz and Charles Otto.

Reach Susan Canfora at scanfora@newszap.com.

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