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WHAT IT MEANS AND WHY IT'S IMPORTANT — Budget cuts are never an easy thing to do. Even if slashing spending on this program or that program can help replenish the government's coffers and reduce a budget deficit, somebody always ends up losing.
(THE NEWS: Healthcare providers can challenge Calif. Medicaid cuts, Supreme Court rules. For the full story, click here)
In the case of California, cuts to the state's Medicaid program, called Medi-Cal, would put patient access to community pharmacies in jeopardy as many would not receive reimbursements sufficient to make up for the cost of medications. In fact, as several pharmacy groups challenging cuts to Medi-Cal said in January when a lower court blocked the 10% reimbursement rate cut, many prescription drugs already are reimbursed at break-even rates.
But the idea of cutting pharmacy reimbursement rates also oversimplifies the issue and ignores the many ways that pharmacies can help save money.
According to most sources, medication nonadherence costs the country's healthcare system $290 billion per year in otherwise unneeded medical costs. But pharmacy services, such as medication therapy management, can help reduce those costs by allowing the pharmacist to consult directly with the patient about the importance of taking medications as directed by physicians and the potential consequences of failing to do so. Meanwhile, such services as vaccinations can head off a number of medical costs by preventing people from getting sick in the first place.
Cutting spending on pharmacy reimbursements might seem like a quick and effective way to save money, but it's shortsighted and misses the point: In the long run, a healthier society costs everybody less.