Rural pharmacists concerned about proposed cuts to Medicaid - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

Rural pharmacists concerned about proposed cuts to Medicaid


Rural Illinois pharmacies may have to count more than pills, soon they may have to count their pennies carefully too.

A state proposal to cut Medicaid payments by four percent has some pharmacies worried how they'll stay in business.

Rogan Country Pharmacy has helped patients in the small town of Pulaski for 15 years. But owner Dean Rogan says cuts to Medicaid reimbursements may crush his small business.

"I can see a landslide affect," said Rogan.

Roughly half of Rogan's business comes from Medicaid. The state pushed back its Medicaid reimbursement payments, so Rogan already waits four months to be paid for drugs he's already dispensed.

Now the state wants to cut what he gets paid when he does finally get paid by four percent.

"That's a very bitter pill to swallow," Rogan said.

Rogan says for his business would mean borrowing money from the bank, with interest, to make ends meet. But eventually, he says he may not be able to keep up.

"At some point business wise, you have to look at it and say you don't have enough to pay your bills, pay your employees. And at some point you're going to have to close," Rogan said.

A spokesman for the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services says these cuts are necessary in a time when the state's Medicaid program is running a $1.4 billion deficit.

"Currently, the State of Illinois is paying more than many private insurers, more than many states' Medicaid programs for prescriptions," said DHFS Spokesman Mike Claffey. "Given the state's fiscal crisis we have to look everywhere we can."

If Rogan and other small-town pharmacists can't squeeze through the budget crunch, rural residents may have a harder time getting their medications.

"In a very rural area where there are not many pharmacies around to serve those Medicaid patients will really have a problem," said Ben Calcaterra, a pharmacist and Southern Regional Director of the Illinois Pharmacist Association. "Because if those pharmacies are unable to keep their doors open and provide that service, then patients will be left with no place to go, that's a problem we do not want to run into."

Claffey says the state will hold public hearing on Medicaid cuts in September. The proposed changes, if approved could go into effect as early as October.

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