Prescription for Change
Governor’s Council backs Molokai Drugs.
In the past few months, several hundred Molokai residents have had to wait two weeks to get their most important prescription medications. Under the Employer-Union Health Benefits Trust Fund (EUTF) program, picking up medications at a local pharmacy is no longer an option. Molokai Drugs — the Friendly Isle’s only local pharmacy — says this is not acceptable. And Molokai’s Governor’s Council of Neighbor Island Advisors agreed.
Kim Svetin, president of Molokai Drugs, gave an updated testimony about the issues she has faced with this new plan to the Governor Council’s last week. Molokai Drugs was forced to adopt the new prescription medication plan as of July 1, in which their EUTF customers received medications from a Florida-based mail order company, Informed Rx. EUTF members are current and retired county and state workers.
The council said they understood the unique situation of Molokai and its only pharmacy, which also ships medications to Lanai.
“We’re an island state, we’re not a one-size-fits-all works [situation],” said Bill Feeter, member of the Molokai council. The Governor’s Council of Neighbor Island Advisors is a five-member committee of Molokai residents. Their purpose is to provide a voice for the public to share their concerns with the governor.
The council decided they would draft a letter to Gov. Lingle to let her know that the prescription program is still a major problem on Molokai. They will recommend reverting to the original system, giving consumers the choice between their local pharmacy and the mail order company.
“It’s shaking the foundation of a 75-year-old business on Molokai,” said Janice Kalanihuia, chair of Molokai’s council.
Without the interaction of the roughly 600 EUTF customers, Svetin estimated she lost between 12 and 15 percent of her business. However, it’s not all about the dollars for Svetin.
“We’re a part of this community, the folks [on the plan] are teachers, help maintain parks and roads,” she said. “It’s not just about numbers, they’re neighbors and friends.”
When the new plan went into affect on July 1, EUTF customers were given a three month grace period to adjust, but Svetin said she knew by September this plan was not going to work. The EUTF Board of Trustees said the mail order plan would cut costs without reducing member benefits.
However, the multitude of issues facing Molokai Drugs and its customers led Svetin to consider dropping the EUTF insurance plan.
“It’s concerning that so much [money] is going out of state,” Svetin said.
Informed Rx repays each pharmacy they work with the same amount for each medication, regardless of location. However, Molokai gets charged higher shipping rates than a pharmacy in the mainland. Svetin said the reimbursements are simply not enough.
Svetin also takes pride in being a watchdog for her customers. Before July, her pharmacy would know immediately if one of their customers hadn’t picked up their medication, and would call to double check. Those affected by this plan often have chronic problems, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol or diabetes.
“We weren’t seeing our customers,” she said. And if an emergency situation occurred, Molokai Drugs could no longer provide the hospital with a medication list.
Customers have also reported problems in registering with the company, being told by Informed Rx’s customer service that their medication is out of stock, or receiving the wrong medication in the mail.
Kelly Go, a pharmacist at Molokai Drugs, said many of the EUTF members will get another surprise at their next refill. As a part of the switch in July, the EUTF Board decided to postpone another part of their program until Jan. 1.
Three classes of medications, cholesterol-lowering; acid reducer; and antihistamine are now only offered in a generic version. However, instead of making the switch automatically, EUTF insurance will charge their customer for the now-more expensive brand name. To switch to the preferred generic, the customer must first go to their physician for the new prescription.
“They removed the choices from providers, and tied their hands behind their backs,” Go said. “The member pays the difference, and most times will not be able to.”
Svetin said if the governor does not agree to the council’s request, she will possibly drop the EUTF insurance plan starting July 1.