Collins visits Elberton
U.S. Representative Doug Collins visited Elberton on Feb. 18 to discuss local pharmacies and legislation he is introducing to protect the home town pharmacy. Collins visited Maddens Pharmacy for well over an hour talking with employees and customers about current laws and the problems they present for the small businesses.
He then stopped by The Elberton Star to give an update on issues facing our county and the Northeast Georgia area.
According to Collins, the small independent pharmacies are becoming endangered species. Collins said the primary cause for this is current laws which place independent pharmacies under indirect control of companies such as Walgreens. The law was initially set up to allow pharmacies to group together to buy medications in bulk and save money for everyone. The problem is that the three entities managing the program are MedCo, Express Scripts and CVS/Caremark. “They have an ownership in pharmacies and they are doing this as well,” said Collins. “They are able to go in and enforce the rules on a Madden’s Pharmacy and others.”
According to Collins, they can send mail order prescriptions but forbid the small pharmacy from doing the same thing.
“They’re not transparent with their pricing and they change the prices on drugs so a pharmacist doesn’t know exactly what they’re paying,” said Collins. “The worst part of it is that they own a pharmacy here in town and can audit a place like Madden’s. If they find something wrong, they can then fine their own competitor.”
The bigger issue here is we’re seeing an attack on the healthcare chain,” said Collins. The representative said although there are big box pharmacies here in Elberton, some communities may be 45-50 minutes away from a big box pharmacy and if their local pharmacy goes out of business some people would not be able to drive those distances to get their medications. “These people would end up doing without their medications,” said Collins.
Collins has introduced HB244 which is the MAC Pricing Transparency Act. It basically allows the pharmacies to know what their prices are ahead of time. “Transparency is all we’re asking for,” said Collins.
“Our independent pharmacies are not asking to be put on a pedestal. They just want to be given a fair shake,” said Collins. “The fear is, if we don’t fix this, in 5-10 years there won’t be a viable community pharmacy. They’ll be gone.”
When asked about rural healthcare reform or assistance, Collins said it was doubtful the issue would be tackled during an election year. He did say should a Republican win the White House, people could expect legislation to be introduced “which would actually make a difference.”
Collins said within his district he has five hospital systems which have are either struggling, are almost out or have been bought out recently.
Collins also addressed the FCC and orphan county issue as well. “What we’ve done lately is put out information to the counties on how they can begin to make their argument. Collins said his office was working on putting together an orphan county summit to get the four counties together and give people an opportunity to express their concerns.
“We’re going to go through the process first,” said Collins. “If that works, then that’s the way it needed to work. But it’s always a market-based issue here. If in the end, we find it was a dry hole, then we’re willing to look at direct legislative action.”
Collins said he has held 25 online town hall meetings and every time he holds one the orphan county issue comes up. “It’s amazing,” said Collins. “We get orphan county questions all the time.”
He also said his office had been in contact with the counties and letting them know how they can proceed.
“It’s slow, but for an issue which has never been approached, we’re excited to see some progress,” said Collins.