Local pharmacy feeling squeeze from rising prescription prices
The owner of Greene County's only privately owned pharmacy is feeling a little squeezed by escalating prescription prices for which he contends he has no control.
Jeff Doris, RPh, also reports that his store, Linton Family Pharmacy, is at a contract impasse with Aetna Insurance, Inc. and will no longer accept prescription coverage from that company.
Doris, who has owned the Linton Pharmacy at 60 A Street NW with his wife, Vicki, since 2006, said Aetna has refused to negotiate an equitable contract and has offered what he called "a take it or leave it" contract.
He asserts that Aetna has refused to agree to a reimbursement to cover the store's break-even costs of dispensing a prescription.
"Repeated attempts to communicate with Aetna and to arrive at a fair contract terms have failed. We are willing to serve Aetna members as long as we can break even on covering our costs of dispensing a prescription. The Aetna offer fell drastically below these costs," Doris explained.
The pharmasist/store owner said Aetna has offered a $1.15 dispensing fee.
"On top of that, they charge me fees for a claim whether it is paid for or not," he explained. "That's going to impact some people. There are a number of people that we provide delivery services to that are going to have to find some other way to get their prescriptions filled."
Doris admits to being frustrated with the contract breakdown and said he believes large insurance companies like Aetna often refuse to negotiate contract terms in good faith.
"They are all pretty much the same from a 'take it or leave it' standpoint," Doris told the Greene County Daily World.
The talks with Aetna broke down after four of five months of negotiations, Doris pointed out.
"They've offered a take it or leave it contract and we've tried to explain to them what we do that is different from everybody else -- the chain pharmacies Walmart and CVS -- and they are just not interested in it." Doris stressed that his store makes home deliveries and offers a custom prescription compounding service that is not offered by the chains because they are labor and detail sensitive.
He said about 94 percent of his store's prescription business is now covered by a third-party carrier -- like an insurance company, Medicare or Medicaid.
"There aren't really that many cash prescriptions left anymore," Doris stated.
"With regard to Aetna, we tried to secure what is called rural rates. Meaning when you are a small pharmacy out in the middle of nowhere sort of like we are they are willing to make an exception, but there were enough pharmacy that exempted them from offering us rural rates. So we were unable to secure a compromise there."
Doris continued, "In fact, many of these companies may hope community pharmacies don't survive so they can funnel all of their prescriptions through their less cost-effective mail-order prescription factories."
Doris said he takes offense that local pharmacies -- like the one he owns -- are often blamed for rising costs for prescription medications.
He said his store has no control over drugs costs.
Doris is also miffed that as manufacturer prices continue to rise, drug companies continue to spend millions of dollars on a lifestyle enhancing drugs direct to consumers on national television, radio, magazines, newspapers, the Internet and even costly NASCAR sponsorships.
"Patients are telling doctors what they want prescribed," he stressed.
He also linked cost increases to improvements in drugs that keep people out of hospitals; new drugs are now on the market to treat previously untreatable conditions; new drugs are available to treat illnesses more precisely and effective than in the past; and an aging population which cause the number of prescriptions to double every five years.
When asked what the answer is going to be for the small town pharmacy, Doris prefaced his answer by saying he had never been much of a political person, but noted, "What needs to change is the passage of collective bargaining laws where the pharmacies bargain as a collective unit."
He hopes that politics doesn't dampen his American Dream of operating his own business.
The federal collective bargaining legislation has been introduced in recent years, but had never got out of committee because of the political clout of the pharmaceutical and insurance companies, Doris pointed out.
"They are a lot more powerful than independent pharmacies without a doubt," he added.