Pharmacies’ Discounts Offer Greater Savings than Florida’s Drug Program for Seniors
Despite prescription drug price cuts mandated by Florida's Prescription Drug Affordability Act, the state's Medicare beneficiaries often pay more for medication under the state program than they would under pharmacies' standard senior discount programs, the Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel reports. Effective last July, any drug store accepting Medicaid must sell prescription drugs to Medicare beneficiaries at the average wholesale price of the drug minus 9%, plus a $4.50 dispensing fee per prescription. Since the state discount is based on average wholesale prices that are determined by the drug manufacturers, prescription prices and the subsequent discounts fluctuate with changing drug production costs. And some druggists contend that their pharmacies' senior discount programs offer a better deal than the state-mandated cuts. The state Agency for Healthcare Administration, which oversees the discount plan, is encouraging seniors to "try to get prices and use the program to comparison shop" for their prescriptions. The average wholesale prices, however, are not readily accessible to most consumers, making price comparison difficult. Moreover, pharmacists say that comparison shopping causes other problems. Michael Polzin, a spokesperson for Walgreens drug stores, said, "Our recommendation is that a person go to one pharmacy for all their medications, whether it's our pharmacy or another. That way, your pharmacy will have a complete record of everything you are taking." He added that "at least half" of the drugs sold in South Florida stores are cheaper through Walgreens' senior discount program.
Refining the Plan
To address consumer concerns, the state is considering making average wholesale prices more accessible. "One of the things we're talking about is a Web site where John Q. Citizen can go for that information," Janis Williamson, health care program analysts with the Agency for Healthcare Administration, said. In addition, state Sen. Tom Lee (R), who sponsored the original bill, said the program may be "reworked" in the upcoming legislative session. "There has been a little bit of confusion and we ought to see if there is a formula that might work better," he said. He added, "I feel we have advanced the ball here. You have a situation in your area that could leave some to doubt the benefit. But we have heard from hundreds of people around the state who have benefited" (Lade, Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, 1/1).